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Old August 31 2012, 12:24 AM   #16
Enterprise1981
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Eleven

Day 16

Whoso sheddeth man’s blood?
By man shall his blood be shed,
For in the image of God,
Made he man.
(Genesis 9:6)

Admiral Jellico convened a meeting of most of the Constantinople’s senior staff. As in most of these staff meetings, Commander Ellison sat on the window side of the conference table to Jellico’s right. Logan and Jeth’ron sat next to him. Lieutenant Commander Kopolev was seated across from those three officers, keeping his expression as blank as possible while wondering why Logan had to sit in on every staff meeting when the commander’s engineering duties were not just limited to one ship.

Logan had recommended Kopolev for the vacant position of chief engineer just prior to the Battle of Three Suns. In the years leading up to the Dominion War, they had served together at Utopia Planitia where Kopolev was a supervising engineer. Gregor knew then that Logan was a stickler for safety protocols, though he wasn’t always looking over his shoulder as he seemed to be doing on Constantinople.

“Each of our confrontations with these mines, at least, yields new information,” Kopolev informed the rest of the group. He wanted to assure his colleagues that he understood that lives were lost whenever one of these mines detonated. All he could do was make sure those lives were not sacrificed in vain. “The means in which they draw power from a target vessel, energy emissions, internal scanning equipment. We’ve managed to salvage a few of the destroyed mines and run some analyses on their composition.”

Doctor Samantha Collins was seated behind Kopolev. She had dark caramel-colored skin, indicative of some African ancestry, and long free-flowing dark hair. “The outer hulls are composed of the same organic material as those on Breen fighters,” she said with a slight Canadian inflection.

“Which means they’re susceptible to our radiogenic warheads,” Jellico plainly answered with a light nod. He quickly arched his head to the right to look in Jeth’ron’s direction. “Mister Jeth’ron, begin attaching all the radiogenic warheads we have left to our quantum torpedoes. And instruct the rest of the ships in our wing to do the same.”

“We’re also working on modifying the deflector,” Logan chimed in, “to send out pulses of ionizing radiation hoping that will disrupt the mines as well.”

“And will these radioactive pulses be fired randomly?” asked Collins.

“Most likely,” Jellico replied with a look of confusion. “You’re not usually concerned about these matters.”

“I’m concerned about the long-term implications of flooding an inhabited star system with heavy concentrations of radiation,” Collins explained, even knowing Jellico could not dissuaded from implementing this plan.

Kopolev also had similar concerns. His time on Constantinople had been rather short, so he largely knew Jellico, by reputation. Since serving as dean of students at Starfleet Academy, Jellico was known as a hard-nosed CO who was intransigent to the point of considering the slightest questioning of his decisions once made, even from a second-in-command, to be insubordination. If he was going to speak up without getting a reprimand in his file, the time was now.

“I have to agree with the doctor,” he said. “Depending on how much radiation we saturate this system with, that would make travel largely unsafe for civilian traffic for years to come. Accurentum-63, for example, has a half-life…”

“The admiral is well aware of the dangers,” Logan interrupted.
Resisting the urge to lunge across the table, Kopolev took a deep breath. “… Has a half-life of seventeen years, and even longer for other isotopes we’ll be employing—upwards of forty years.”

“A number of hospital ships should be arriving within two hours to provide additional provisions,” Ellison assured both Kopolev and Collins. “And our ships will take extra precautions to make sure no radioactive debris ends up in the atmospheres of either of the inhabited planets. And new travel protocols will certainly be initiated after the war is over.”

“What if that’s not enough?” Collins wondered.

“I understand your concerns, Samantha,” Jellico firmly stated. “But we don’t have the time to consider too many long-term hypothetical scenarios. The here-and-now is what I’m most concerned about. And speaking of which, I’ve had a hunch that the primarily Cardassian garrisons dispatched here and in neighboring systems are nothing more than a means of misdirection.”

“Why would say that, sir?” Jeth’ron inquired.

“Think about it. The Kalandra sector has been a jumping off point for attacking Federation core systems ever since the invasion of Betazed just over a year ago. And yet all they can spare now are wings of Cardassian ships along with those pesky mines. And we’ve outmatched them at nearly every turn.”

“Suggesting that they don’t really care about Kalandra anymore,” Ellison offered to finish the admiral’s thought.

“Exactly,” Jellico confirmed, “which why is most of the ships stationed here will be bypassing the Zhamur system for the Tong-Beak nebula. About a dozen squads will remain here and in outlying systems. I’ve spoken with Admirals Dennings and Bellamy, and they’ve agreed to dispatch additional ships to this sector and the nebula. We leave within the hour. Gregor, make sure warp and impulse drives are up to specs. Jeth’ron, in addition to modifying the weapons, place the ship on level-one security alert. Have Lieutenant Neeley see to the distribution of arms to all hands. Dismissed.”

***

On his way back to engineering, Kopolev caught up Logan in a main corridor. He had hoped to air a grievance regarding the staff meeting in a setting where other senior officers were not listening. Kopolev knew that arguing with Jellico was very often ineffective, but Logan was still out of line for his interruption.

“Do you have minute, Commander?” he quietly asked his superior.

Logan nodded gingerly, as if knowing what Kopolev would say next.

“If I may speak frankly, sir,” Kopolev continued as they continued walking side-by-side down the corridor. “I did not appreciate being interrupted during that meeting.”

“Admiral Jellico does not need to be reminded of what he already knows.”

Kopolev momentarily looked away from Logan and rolled his eyes. “I was simply trying to make the point about the dangers to the inhabitants of this system and of how long that danger could last.”

“Once a decision has been made, there isn’t much point in contesting it, especially with him. I should certainly know since I’ve often put up more of a fight with him than you just did.”

“Then why does he even bother with staff meetings if the decisions are not open to any debate?”

“So we can carry out his orders to the letter.
Kopolev picked up his pace and stepped in front of Logan to emphasize his next point. “I understand completely, sir,” he said, now face-to-face with the commander. “Nevertheless, while you may be chief engineer of this entire fleet, I am still chief engineer of this ship. Until that changes, my opinions and recommendations carry just as much weight as yours. So it is perfectly reasonable request that I be allowed to finish sentences. Furthermore, I will be filing a formal complaint with Commander Ellison about your consistent undermining of nearly every major decision I have made these last two weeks.”

Logan smirked as if admiring Kopolev’s assertiveness, even to a superior officer. “That is your right,” he confirmed. “Just keep in mind that Admiral Jellico’s style of command is far different what you’re used to at Utopia Planitia. And any argument on your part once a decision is made is, more often than not, futile.”

Logan made a semicircular turn around Kopolev and continued down the corridor. Kopolev just stood still, silently hoping that Logan would be on one of the ships remaining at Zhamur.

###

“They’ve taken the bait, sir. A significant number of Federation Alliance vessels have departed the Zhamur system to a rendezvous at a point just outside the Tong-Beak Nebula.”

Diralna contacted Yelgrun once the Seventh Fleet withdrew a significant portion of their forces from the Zhamur system. In addition to keeping Gul Latham and the rest of the Ninth Order in line, Diralna had the responsibility of monitoring and decoding enemy communications. Yelgrun had known that Federation fleet commanders would eventually deduce that the constant hit-and-run strikes at the sites of the Battle of Three Suns were a means of misdirection and push deeper into enemy territory. “I am uncertain the exact coordinates,” she continued. “I can decode the message further if you like, though that may take several days.”

Yelgrun smiled, appreciative of his former protégé’s enthusiasm. “That’s not necessary,” he assured her, “but I appreciate your initiative. Have you identified the flagship of the battle group?”

Diralna accessed a data set on her computer terminal, which displayed the general schematics of a Starfleet capital ship on the bottom left corner of Yelgrun’s screen. “From the transmissions we have been able to decode, the flagship is a Sovereign-class vessel, designation USS Constantinople.” After she keyed another command sequence, the image of the ship disappeared and was replaced with the image of a white-haired human male Starfleet admiral. “It’s commanding officer is lower half Rear Admiral Edward Jellico. He is an accomplished war veteran and diplomat, having negotiated the original armistice between the Federation and Cardassian Union…”

“I don’t require a full biography,” interrupted Yelgrun. “You’ve done a fine job to this point, Doko’toran Diralna. I just need you to continue to keep Gul Latham in line.”

“And I have been, for the most part, successful in that regard. I am concerned that some of his crew may start an uprising, especially the woman who shares his bed.”

Yelgrun scoffed, indicating his lack of interest in the gul’s extramarital activities as well as amusement that Diralna’s efforts to seduce Latham had been unsuccessful. “Make every effort to curtail any mutinies before they occur,” he instructed. “I have a little surprise for the enemy fleet. Sadok’toran out.”
***

Gul Latham viewed the entire communiqué between Diralna and Yelgrun on the wall-mounted monitor in his quarters. Once both of the Vorta signed off, he pushed a button to complete the recording and load it and all the transmitted data onto an isolinear data rod.

“You know what to do with this,” Latham instructed as he handed the rod to Nezhak.

“Of course,” the young woman replied. “I’ll have the contents transmitted on one of the Starfleet frequencies we decoded.”
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Old August 31 2012, 12:28 AM   #17
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Eleven (continued)

“The Islander” by Nightwish

The Constantinople and the 272nd tactical wing dropped out of warp just outside the nebula.

Ellison had completed a full circuit around the bridge to assess the status of each station, while Jellico sat in the command chair monitoring tactical displays and communications chatter. The admiral had a grim expression on his face when the first officer sat down in the chair on Jellico’s right, as if he had gotten some bad news from one the other ship captains.

“The Klingons and Romulans are sending additional warships,” Jellico noted. “They’re not going here for a while with Chancellor Martok struggling to get all his generals in line and Temlek briefing his successor after…”

“Yes, sir,” Ellison replied with a light nod, knowing how Jellico would finish that sentence. Martok had been anointed chancellor of the Klingon Empire just a few short weeks earlier, though not every general in the Defense Forces recognized him as the new leader because of the role a Klingon Starfleet officer played in his rise to power. Temlek was the commander of the Romulan Star Navy forces contributing ships to the Seventh Fleet until Captain Limis took her ship into a sector under Romulan protection against his wishes.

Both Ellison and Jellico knew all too well had prompted Temlek to request a transfer, so they saw no point in rehashing it on the bridge. A proximity alert then quickly caught the attention of the captain and first officer.

“Ships are coming out of the nebula,” Jeth’ron informed the rest of the bridge crew. “Three hundred fifty seven Jem’Hadar and Breen ships closing fast.”

“That’s three times the number of ships the preliminary scouts indicated saw,” Jellico remarked. “All ships, spread along the outer periphery of the nebula. Lay down fire on any attacking ships.” He glanced at Ellison once again, and he agreed with what Jellico might have been thinking.

“You’d think they knew we were coming,” Ellison remarked. “And they’re not going let us get out of here in one piece.”

Swarms of Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters swooped in, destroying light cruisers and fighter shuttles very quickly. Other fighters targeted the capital ships, laying down cover fire for the attack cruisers and battleships, leading the way for five Dominion heavy cruisers to fire barrages of plasma torpedoes from all gun ports. One of them targeted the Constantinople, doing considerable damage to the saucer section.

The bridge rocked hard and consoles exploded, sending officers to the deck. Ellison checked on one of the fallen officers, feeling for a pulse on his neck, while Jellico was fervently entering commands on his right armrest panel. “Signal all ships to fall back and regroup at these coordinates,” he instructed Matthew Herron as he entered a set of numbers.

“I’ll do my best to compensate for a rotating EM pulse they’re emitting,” the communications officer responded, firmly gripping his console.

“That’s all I ask,” Jellico replied. He rose from his seat and marched towards the tactical station. “Jeth’ron, have all capital lay down cover fire for the smaller ships. Helm, move us off at one-quarter impulse.”

The bridge shook again. The combination of an electrical overload in the deck and a falling ceiling beam claimed Jellico as one of the latest casualties. Ellison kneeled next to the admiral and felt for a pulse on his neck, finding he was still alive, albeit barely. “Where are those damn medics?!” he bellowed in Herron’s direction.

“They’re coming, sir,” Herron replied, hardly reassuring since they were not yet here.

Jem’Hadar materialized on the bridge in two groups of three, prompting Ellison to sound intruder alert. Two security guards stationed at each of the two entrances to the observation lounge fired their phaser rifles at the intruders, dispatching two of them while the other four spread out. Truxia and Nave dove for cover while Jeth’ron and the four guards kept laying down phaser fire. One of the Jem’Hadar effortlessly lifted the petite Nave off the deck by the collar. She landed a punch to his left jaw, and in that moment of distraction, Jeth’ron shot him.

***

In a narrow corridor just outside of engineering, Lisa Neeley and Loukas Pherrelius were firing phaser rifles in the direction of attacking Jem’Hadar and Breen. Two armored Breen were armed with curved swords, slashing the necks of two human soldiers, but they were just as quickly dispatched by kligats that two Capellan males flung in their direction. Amidst the back and forth exchanges of phaser fire with neither side giving in, two Jem’Hadar slipped by into a perpendicular corridor.

“Cover us while we go after them,” Neeley instructed what was now an eight person team. The other Marines obliged, firing in the direction of four Jem’Hadar and four Breen. Pherrelius followed the two Jem’Hadar who slipped by the barrages of weapon fire down the connecting corridor while Neeley headed in the opposite direction, which was the more direct route to engineering.

As the two Jem’Hadar are on their way to engineering, two Brikar soldiers emerged through doors on both sides of the hallway and snapped their necks. But they were met by four Jem’Hadar and two Breen coming from opposite directions. The two Brikars engaged the Breen in hand-to-hand combat while the Jem’Hadar laid down cover fire as they slip past the close quarters fighting. The pair of Breen then managed to dispatch their two opponents.

Down the hall, Neeley threw a stun grenade that took out both Breen and one Jem’Hadar. Firing her phaser rifle, she was able to dispatch two of the remaining three Jem’Hadar, while the one still standing fired and clipped her in the left shoulder. Pherrelius fired at him from behind. “Looks like he got you in the shoulder,” he remarked as he saw a burn mark on her vest.

“It’s just a flesh wound,” Neeley replied, hoping to dodge further discussion of her wound.

“Where Jem’Hadar weapons are concerned, it’s not just a flesh wound.”

“I’ll let you know when I’m bleeding to death.” They dodged more plasma charges as they resumed firing in the enemy’s direction with the rest of the unit lending support from behind the intruders.

***

Ellison tried to move Jellico’s unconscious form out of the line fire towards the row of starboard auxiliary stations while clipping a Jem’Hadar with his phaser. Two Jem’Hadar emerged from the observation lounge’s port egress, killing one of the guards and sending the other to the deck. One of the guards at the starboard egress shot one of the Jem’Hadar with his rifle while Ellison dove towards the second. He grabbed the blade from the rifle of an incapacitated solider and jammed it into the other Jem’Hadar’s chest.

Four medics emerged from the deck hatch in front of the port turbolift, each accompanied by security guards. The guards laid down cover fire for the medics while four more Jem’Hadar materialized on the port side of the compartment and began shooting indiscriminately. Truxia flung her chair in their direction, creating a momentary distraction. Nave and one the security guards alongside a medic dispatched him with their phasers. The Starfleet officers on the bridge still standing kept firing aimlessly while ducking out of the way of enemy fire.

Despite every effort to protect the medics and their patients, one of the medics was killed by a barrage of plasma charges. With a primordial wale, Ellison dispatched two of the Jem’Hadar with a fallen Jem’Hadar’s plasma rifle. After Jeth’ron took out the last of the intruders with his phaser rifle, he looked down at his console. “The emergency transport dampening field has switched on,” he informed Ellison. “There are still intruders on decks five, eleven, and fourteen.”

“Understood,” Ellison replied, trying to catch his breath. With a murderous rage in his eyes, he stared at the body of the dead medic and then at the body of the Jem’Hadar who killed him. He launched the plasma rifle still in his hands at the corpse, savagely beating it. “Fuck you!” he screamed. “Fuck you, you heartless pieces of shit! That’s for every medical transport destroyed, every injured or dying soldier you thugs have killed!”

Nave and Jeth’ron pulled him away from the corpse and restrained him. He took a few breaths and calms himself. A proximity alert then caught everyone’s attention at that same moment.

Truxia picked up her chair off the floor and placed it front of the ops console. “I’m reading several dozen tachyon surges,” she said, keeping her gaze on the console as she seated herself in the chair. “Ships are decloaking.”

Dozens of Klingon and Romulan capital ships uncloaked. A few Raptora-class warbirds were right on top of Dominion and Breen heavy cruisers, doing heavy damage to the outer hulls. Twelve Negh’Var and Vor’cha class cruisers laid down additional fire from further away, destroying two Breen ships and one Jem’Hadar. Waves of starbirds and Birds-of-Prey managed to drive off the most of the fighters and attack cruisers.

Ellison stared at the viewscreen in awe as the fresh set of ships continued blowing away enemy ships. While he did not believe in any deity for most of his life, he believed in divine intervention at this very moment. “Where’d they come from?” he wondered aloud. “They weren’t supposed to be here for another two hours.”

“We should just be thankful they are here,” Jeth’ron plainly replied. A blinking indicator on his console then caught his attention. “Security reports the boarding parties are contained, most of them having retreated when reinforcements arrived.”

“Casualties?”

“Fourteen dead,” Herron grimly responded, “seventeen others in critical condition in sickbay.”

Ellison just stood in eerie silence. He watched the medics carry away the dead and injured on anti-gravity stretchers. The last of the bodies taken away was that of Admiral Jellico.

###

The wounded were being treated in sickbay, the more critical cases in the primary ward. Ellison, Jeth’ron, and Nave were among those being treated for minor wounds in the secondary ward—Ellison for scrapes and bruises on his jaws, neck, and forehead; Jeth’ron for a disruptor wound in his right hip, and Nave for broken bones in her right hand and fingers where she landed a punch on a Jem’Hadar’s jaw.

After he was treated for his injury, Ellison sauntered by Neeley, who was being treated for her injury, and entered the primary ward where Collins was attending to Jellico in the main intensive care unit. “How is he?” he inquired with very reserved optimism.

“Not good,” Collins answered with a dour shake of her head. “I’ve managed to induce a coma to protect his higher functions. I can keep him alive indefinitely with a respirator. Whether he regains consciousness at all is highly unlikely.”

Ellison sighed while staring gloomily at the unconscious Jellico, most of his face covered with a breathing apparatus and a feeding tube inserted into the side of his mouth. “Do whatever you can,” Ellison instructed the doctor. “Contact his next of kin at your earliest convenience. I’ll make an announcement to the crew.”

***

“The chances that he’ll regain consciousness are very slim,” Ellison informed the senior staff while sitting at the head of the table in the observation lounge. “That means I am officially assuming command. Captain Lemnitzer of the Nicopolis has assumed command of the 272nd tactical wing. We’ll be rejoining the battle group in forty-eight hours.”
Kopolev’s jaw dropped when he heard that last statement. From Ellison’s left, he looked the acting captain straight in the face. “That’s hardly enough time to complete repairs of major systems,” he contested, “especially with a third of my crew down.”

“I understand the difficulties,” Ellison assured the chief engineer. “But this class of ship can hold out a lot longer in a firefight. And we need every functioning ship on the front lines crewed by the best officers we can spare. Lieutenant Commander Truxia, you’re first officer.”

Jeth’ron was seated to Ellison’s immediate right and to Truxia’s left. “With respect, sir,” he interjected, “as second officer, I am next in line.”

“That’s true,” said Ellison. “But I need your expertise at tactical. Commander Logan, the Agamemnon lost her chief engineer and most of that department’s senior officers. They could use your experience.”

Logan was seated at the far end of the table on Ellison’s right. “If this has anything to do with…” he started to say.

“It does not,” Ellison hissed, resisting the urge to tell him off. He admired Logan’s strict adherence to safety regulations. What frustrated Ellison was that no matter how many times superior officers reminded Logan that following those regulations to the letter was not always possible during times of war, the career starship designer could not switch off that particular mental schema. By now, Ellison was eager for any pretext to get Logan off Constantinople.

“If you’re going to continue to be this petty,” Ellison added, “I can, instead, relieve you of duty and send you back to Utopia Planitia in the slowest transport I can find.”

Logan remained silent, simply rolling his eyes and lowering his head deferently.

“Now, I need each and every one of you to continue doing your jobs to the best of your ability,” Ellison announced to the rest of the officers in the meeting, “because we still have a war to win. What we all do here will make a difference in the freedom of the galaxy or its enslavement.”
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Old August 31 2012, 08:07 PM   #18
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twelve

Day 19

And the waters decreased continually,
Until the tenth month.
In the tenth month, on the first day of the month,
Were the tops of mountains seen.
(Genesis 8:5)


Shinar Sh’Aqba was lying down on a biobed, watching Aurellan Markalis standing over her. The doctor scanned the Andorian woman’s abdomen with a wand-like device while glancing at readings on the bed’s primary scanner.

Shinar wasn’t exactly what readings meant, but she gathered from Aurellan’s neutral expression that the news was good so far. Neither she nor her unborn offspring suffered any ill effects as a result of exposure to radiation and thinning atmosphere. That was the prognosis yesterday and the day before. Yet, the doctors were far from finished with all the comprehensive testing. She was completely ambivalent about the results of those tests. If she were in danger of suffering a miscarriage, she would be released from the obligations of motherhood. What was making her excruciatingly bored was being confined to sickbay for the last five days, courtesy of a suicide watch placed on her. Ordinarily, a suicide watch was seventy-two hours, but Markalis insisted on holding her longer.

“Everything still checks out,” Markalis blankly informed her. “Neither you, nor the baby suffered any permanent damage from the radiation.”

Sh’Aqba looked away from the doctor and rolled her eyes. She knew that was true based on the last few exams. Hearing it again was rather redundant with all the rest she was hearing just being medical mumbo-jumbo. “Then can I leave?” she asked with feigned eagerness.

“You’re still on suicide watch for another six hours,” Aurellan replied with a chastising smile.

Shinar propped herself up with her elbows and sat up to look straight at Aurellan. “Oh, don’t be absurd!” she scoffed. “I’m not going to try to kill myself.”

“Not overtly. But taking these kinds of risks is an indication of a death wish. That makes you a danger to yourself and your crew.”

Shinar sighed. Just more medical mumbo-jumbo. “But what’s the point of keeping me here the full five days? I could just slit my wrists after I walk out that door.”

“Andorians don’t have major arteries in the wrists.”

Shinar was not sure whether to be amused or annoyed by that answer. “Really?” she said with widened eyes. “That’s your response? I was making a joke.”

“And grounds for being kept here longer,” Aurellan retorted. “I ran a complete brain scan. And I crosschecked it with the Andorian central medical database. It took exhaustive research considering they don’t let just anyone see the most updated research on psychopathology.”

Shinar shook her head. She could take apart the circuits of this ship in her sleep. But words like “psychopathology” baffled her. “I am not becoming a violent psychopath, Doctor, am I?” she asked.

“Of course not,” Aurellan said with a chuckle. She handed Shinar a padd, adding, “There’s a biochemical imbalance consistent with clinical depression.”

Shinar stared at the padd intently without any understanding of what was on the screen. “But I don’t feel depressed,” she insisted.

“People with clinical depression don’t always ‘feel’ depressed. This imbalance means that certain stimuli can trigger depressive symptoms, including major life changes. I’m going to prescribe anti-depressants.”

“More medicine?” Shinar answered with a sigh. “Great. But if it’ll get me out of here.” She looked around to see no one else in the immediate vicinity. “Word around here,” she said in a hushed tone, “is that you’ve been overdosing on your medication.”

Aurellan sighed, hoping to avoid this uncomfortable topic of conversation. “It’s just a few extra doses here and there to deal with the stress of all the suffering and death,” she insisted, even knowing how hollow that rationalization sounded. “It’s not an addiction. I’ll be able to cut back after the war’s over.”

Shinar had heard this before from a few colleagues overcome by the stresses of the Dominion War and the Federation-Cardassian War. “Addicts think that at the beginning. It’s not something I’ve dealt with, but I’ve seen what it does to people. They eventually find that they can’t live without the drug.”

She seemed to be getting through to Aurellan, as she looked away from Shinar in rueful silence. “My holographic boyfriend said the same thing,” Aurellan said with a tone suggesting she was both confident she wouldn’t become an addict and worried that she would.

“Then if you don’t my word for it, you should take his since he’s a walking medical database.”

“Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind. I have to get back to work.”While still averting her gaze away from Shinar, Aurellan just sauntered into her office.

Shinar seemed genuinely worried for Aurellan even if she kept a professional distance from her patients. Through all the visits to sickbay, Shinar had still gotten to know Aurellan as a person rather than the reclusive and introverted young chief medical officer. Aurellan was always very serious, but could still crack a joke now and then. That made Shinar more appreciative of the rigid aspects of her personality. Maybe they were becoming friends, even if Aurellan did not realize it.

She was lost in those thoughts when a red alert sounded. She let out a loud exhale and fell back on the bed, having been reminded she was stuck in sickbay for another six hours. That the rest of the crew was scrambling to their stations and she wasn’t elicited a disheartening, perhaps even depressing, sense of helplessness.

###

Montage of 2010 HBO miniseries “The Pacific” (listen and watch for a familiar DS9-alum) featuring “The Good Die Young” by The Scorpions ft. Tarja Turunen

A vast armada of Jem’Hadar and Breen vessels of varying sizes ambushed the 273rd tactical wing while it was en route to a rendezvous with the 272nd at the Tong-Beak Nebula. Trios of Jem’Hadar fighters in single file formation quickly took out Nebula and Miranda-class light cruisers and Klingon Birds-of-Prey, while the Breen fighters were more spread out, firing plasma charges that destroyed even more light cruisers and fighter shuttles. Jem’Hadar attack cruisers and battleships fired disruptors and plasma torpedoes at a large number of Akira, Steamrunner, and Excelsior-class vessels. Those Starfleet ships were able to destroy attacking ships just as quickly as they were being destroyed. Some swarms of torpedoes did heavy damage to the forward hulls of the Lambda Paz and two outlying Luna-class ships.

***

“Return fire!” Limis barked. “All forward phasers.”

The captain sat in the command chair keeping a close eye on her tactical display while the bridge was shaking in all directions. Morrison tightly gripped the tactical station with both hands as the bridge lurched forward for a brief moment, and he quickly keyed a targeting sequence once the shaking stopped. “Direct hit on one ship’s starboard nacelle,” he reported. “It’s moving off. The other two ships to port are locking on.”

Kozar rose from his chair and slowly sauntered towards the helm. “Helm, evasive pattern gamma five,” he instructed Carson. With a quick glance towards Huckaby at ops, he added, “Auxiliary power to number two shield.”

The bridge rocked in both directions as the attack cruisers fired disruptors and the battleship fired more barrages of torpedoes.

“We’ve got hull breaches on decks three, four, and five, forward section eight through thirteen,” Carson reported while practically hunched over her station.

Limis jumped up from her seat as well and looked in Morrison’s direction. “Status of forward shields?” she inquired.

“Back up to forty-eight percent, sir,” Morrison calmly replied.

“Keep firing all forward phasers,” the captain ordered. “Helm, move us in closer to that battleship.”

“How much closer?” Carson apprehensively wondered.
“Right up his throat, full impulse,” Limis emphatically stated. “Prepare another spread of quantum torpedoes. Dispersal pattern foxtrot. Fire on my mark.”

Carson then began counting down from one thousand meters in two hundred meter increments. “Eight hundred meters, six hundred…four hundred…”

“Captain?” Kozar nervously gasped, knowing that any closer would most likely destroy them as well.

“Fire!” Limis barked.

The swarm of torpedoes destroyed the battleship and one outlying attack cruisers while quick phaser bursts inflicted considerable damage to two other attack cruisers. The three attack cruisers to starboard swing around and laid down additional fire at the stern of the Lambda Paz as it emerged from the fireball of destroyed ships. The onslaught of weapons fire damaged the aft torpedo tube on the upper sensor pod. The other two Lunas alongside Lambda Paz and a Prometheus-class vessel formed up closer, taking out three fighters and damaging one of the attack cruisers with phasers. The Lambda Paz then did a near full one hundred eighty degree turn and fired back and forth rounds of phasers and torpedoes.

Kozar headed back to his chair and saw a flashing blip on his side control panel moving closer to a Starfleet delta that represented the Lambda Paz. “See those three heavy cruisers hovering just outside of our weapons ranges?” he asked Limis and Morrison.

Limis nodded to Morrison, signaling him to be ready at a moment’s notice. “I see them,” she said while hovering over the control panel next to her chair. “They’re closing in. All power to dorsal shields.”

“It might be tough with starboard EPS lines out of commission,” said Huckaby, “but I’ll do what I can.”

***

A Dominion heavy cruiser, flanked by two Breen heavy cruisers swooped in on what was left of the Alliance fleet, firing quick barrages of plasma torpedoes. Allied light cruisers and fighter shuttles continued dropping like flies while bigger ships sustained moderate to severe damage from enemy fire. The heavy cruisers then moved back upwards with smaller ships gathering alongside it on the port and starboard sides. Once clear of the Federation Alliance fleet, all the ships streaked into warp.

“I don’t believe it,” gasped Morrison. “They’re all moving off.”

“Heading?” Limis asked.

“Deeper into Dominion territory.”

“Do we pursue?” Kozar inquired.

Limis shook her head and sat in the command while letting out a sigh of relief. “Negative,” she said. “We need to dress our own wounds before deciding our next course of action.”

She stared at the viewscreen, watching the backs of the attacking ships as they moved further and further away. They’re sudden withdraw could not have come at a better time even if it was not consistent with how thorough the Jem’Hadar were in destroying a target. As Limis was speculating five days earlier in the Daxura system, they were simply trying to soften them up for a major offensive.

The unexpected lull in combat was certainly welcome, but Limis was certain that sooner or later, the worst was yet to come.
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Old August 31 2012, 08:11 PM   #19
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twelve (continued)

The 272nd wing was under heavy fire from Jem’Hadar battleships and Breen heavy cruisers. Cardassian capital ships and light cruisers were shooting at Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan light cruisers and fighter shuttles. Waves of Akira, Steamrunner, Vorcha, and D’Deridex-class vessels spread apart and fired at the Cardassians from the behind, tearing off the wing of one Galor-class cruiser.

A horizontal formation of Jem’Hadar and Breen heavy cruisers took on Galaxy, Sovereign, Negh’Var and Morgai-class capital ships. Swarms of plasma torpedoes tore through the hulls of Birds-of-Prey and starbirds, while the capital ships took out Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters with phasers and grazed the hulls of the heavy cruisers with torpedo barrages.

Two plasma torpedoes tore through the forward saucer section of the Constantinople.

***

Explosions filled the bridge of Constantinople, sending pieces of shrapnel flying all across the deck. Lieutenant Commander Jeth’ron was able to duck out of the way of the scattering debris while keeping a close eye on the readouts flashing on his console.

“Hull breach on deck three, section twelve,” the Efrosian officer called over the cacophony of electrical crackling and beeping consoles. “Emergency forcefields are in place.”

Ellison was seated in the command chair while Truxia occupied the first officer’s chair to his right, both of whom were monitoring tactical displays on their respective panels. Ellison updated a tactical display on the right armrest’s keypad while Truxia monitored the conditions of nearby ships on the console situated in front of her chair.

“All emergency power to forward shields,” Ellison instructed the tactical officer. “Move us in a little closer, helm. Target weapon ports three through seven with a simultaneous spread of all forward phasers and quantum torpedoes.”

“Aye, sir,” Jeth’ron responded while gripping his console, struggling to stay on his feet.

Constantinople and two flanking Sovereign-class ships fired alternating salvos of phasers and torpedoes, grazing the hulls of three different heavy cruisers. Three Galaxy-classes swooped in and fired phasers and torpedoes at the same time Akiras were firing from further away. The hulls of the heavy cruisers experienced moderate damage with two of the weapon ports being blown out.

“We knocked out two of the weapon ports,” Jeth’ron informed the captain. “They’re locking on again.”

A swarm of torpedoes homed in on Constantinople, inflicting damage on the primary and secondary hulls, as well as grazing the deflector.

“Number four shield has failed,” Ensign Herron reported from ops. “The deflector is leaking antiprotons. Nicopolis and Agamemnon are reporting similar damage.”

“Repair crews, seal off the deflector breach,” Truxia snapped. “Evasive pattern delta-seven, helm.”

The bridge shook several more times. Sparks gushed from various auxiliary stations. The secondary security station to the right of tactical exploded sending the officer manning it to the deck, as did the port mission ops and engineering consoles. Truxia jumped out of her chair to check on the injured male human at the security station before taking a look at the console. The two security guards stationed at the port turbolift, meanwhile checked on the other two injured officers.

“Heavy damage to the port nacelle,” Nave sang out. “Inertial stabilizers one and four are offline. Attempting to compensate.”

Another spread of torpedoes blew apart Nicopolis, while tearing off Agamemnon’s starboard nacelle, and a significant portion of the forward half of the Constantinople’s saucer section.

Truxia was attending to the medics escorting injured officers off the deck. A flashing indicator at mission ops caught her attention as she directed replacement personnel to the vacant stations. “The Nicopolis is gone,” she said. “Agamemnon has lost its starboard nacelle and their life support systems are failing.”

***

Three Dominion heavy cruisers took out two of the three attacking Galaxy-class ships while Breen heavy cruisers on the outer formation destroyed one of the Akiras.

A direct torpedo hit knocked out Constantinople’s shields and shorted out the forcefield protecting the warp core. Two engineering technicians were thrown off the catwalk from an explosion. Fires were all over the compartment. Kopolev was trying to put one of them out with an extinguisher when a readout on one of the master situation consoles elicited an ominous look in his eyes.

“Engineering to bridge,” he said with a tap of his combadge. “I’ve lost containment on two of the starboard antimatter pods. I’m attempting to isolate them before the core breaches even though that may not be possible since the protective field just failed.”

***

On the bridge, the main light fixture gave way and spiraled down towards the deck. Nave managed to dive safely out of the way, while Herron was not so lucky. In addition to the ceiling fixture, a girder smashed the ops console and crushed a considerable portion of his body up to his shoulders. “Matt!” Nave cried. She stared in silent horror at the young man’s broken body and frozen expression of terror on his face.

The falling debris had managed to knock over the command chair, but Ellison managed to get out of the way just in time. He quickly trotted across the bridge and clasped Nave’s shoulders to rouse her from what looked like a catatonic state. “I know he was your friend, Ensign, but I need you at your station,” he told her calmly, but firmly.

“Aye, sir,” Nave replied. Her lips were trembling and her voice was breaking as she was choking back terrified sobs. But she quickly composed herself and sat down at the helm.

Consoles were shorting out and electrical currents coursed across the bridge. The Constantinople was the latest target of the Breen energy dissipaters. The newly modified shields had held up well against the weapon that gave the enemy a major tactical advantage when the Breen entered the war. Any ship without shields, though, was still very susceptible to such a weapon.

“Back us off,” Ellison screamed, even knowing that saving his ship was futile. “Jeth’ron, try to…” Before he could complete his sentence, he saw the Efrosian was dead with his eyes still wide open. The tactical station had fallen to the deck, taking him with it and electrocuting him to death.

“It’s no use, sir,” Nave responded. “All helm controls are offline.”

“Structural integrity fields are failing,” Truxia added while hovering over the barely functioning communications console. “Core breach in two minutes.”

The next order was clear. “Abandon ship,” he barked. “Move! Move!”

The rest of the bridge crew scrambled off the deck, filing through the four emergency deck hatches. Ellison just stood in the center of the compartment, watching his ship fall apart around him. “The captain went down with his ship,” was something he had heard many times before. But under these circumstances, that wouldn’t have done any good. He silently said goodbye to the ship on which he had served the last two years and quickly headed for the aft port deck hatch.

As more and more capital ships and support vessels continued falling, the Dominion and Breen armada gathered near the nebula and streaked into warp. A swarm of escape pods, along with two runabouts and five shuttles emerged from the broken hull of Constantinople. One of the retreating attack cruisers fired one last killing blow, tearing apart the ship and taking a few escape pods and one shuttle with it.


Day 20

And on the second month,
On the seven and twentieth day of the month,
The Earth had dried.
(Genesis 8:14)


Thousands of ships soared through the vastness of space like a giant swarm of insects. They were clustered so close together that they could block out the stars they passed.

They had all been pulled off the front lines of a war that darkened this side of the galaxy for nearly two years. Each and every starship that had fought on the side of the Dominion was recalled to the most central region of the Cardassian Union. The hope was to defend a much smaller region of space with a large amount of ships, all the while building up their numbers to a level that would easily overcome the great powers of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants.

It was a maneuver the Founders had hoped to never use through the course of the war. Of course, they did not expect that the Federation Alliance War would last this long. They expected to defeat the Federation and its allies within four or five months. That was assuming the availability of regular reinforcements from their side of the galaxy. Yet somehow, the Bajorans’ false gods residing in the Anomaly had intervened in a big way on the eve of the Dominion’s greatest victory. And with the Founders standing on the verge of extinction, defeat was not an option. It was better for them to wither and die from a mysterious affliction than to be conquered and exterminated by the Solids.

All the ships converged in locations that surrounded the Cardassian Union and its core worlds. Thousands of ships were gathered in one such location—a solar system the Cardassians named Minakus. It was a force as big as every celestial body within the Minakus system put together. It was a force that would require the bulk of the enemy’s forces to break through.

The enemy wouldn’t dare try to penetrate this fortress. And even if it did, a very miniscule number of ships and troops would survive the attempt.

For the Founders of the Dominion, victory literally was life.

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Old September 2 2012, 09:58 PM   #20
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Part Two: “Nothing Less Than Full Victory”

“We will accept nothing less than full Victory!” General Dwight David Eisenhower, June 2, 1944

Chapter Thirteen

Day 23

And when the tempter came to him,
He, said, if thou be the Son of God,
Command that these stones
Be made bread.
(Matthew 4:3)


Limis Vircona sat at one end of the conference table in the main briefing room participating in a teleconference with two fleet commanders and three senior admirals, detailing the Dominion withdraw. Vice-Admiral William Ross appeared on the center of the monitor screen. Vice-Admirals Arthur Bellamy and Grenthanneck th’Talach were pictured in video capsules on the right of the screen, while Rear Admirals Phillip Gundersen and Bartholomew Coburn appeared on the left.

Through her experiences in staying one step ahead of the Jem’Hadar during their relentless efforts to exterminate the Maquis and fighting in the Dominion War, Limis learned time and again that they did a very thorough job in eliminating a target. From the attempted mass slaughter of the last remaining remnants of the Maquis on Athos Four to the destruction of ninety-eight ships at the Battle of Tyra early in the war to the deaths of fifteen hundred miners in the Coridan Massacre, they were even more thorough than the Cardassians in killing as many people as possible, even noncombatants, before declaring victory. On a number of occasions, the Jem’Hadar did not hesitate to destroy escape pods and medical transports. No Jem’Hadar soldier or starship would withdraw from battle when a significant number of enemy forces were still capable of putting up a strong fight unless it was to their tactical advantage. The same was true of the Breen in their attack on Earth. After Starfleet reinforcements arrived, the Breen had very few ships left to continue fighting only after having done considerable damage to the planet’s infrastructure. A Dominion fleet left over two hundred vessels intact as they withdrew deeper into their own territory during the Lambda Paz’s last encounter with them four days earlier. Since then, Starfleet battle groups throughout the Federation had reported similar incidents.

The questions now were whether or not the Dominion had indeed pulled off a complete strategic retreat from Federation and allied territories in order to make a final stand in Cardassian Union core systems, and how the Federation Alliance was to respond to this latest development in the war.

“We have been able to confirm that all Dominion and allied vessels have withdrawn from the Vulcan and Bolian fronts,” Bellamy informed the other senior officers from his office on Starbase 19. “The reconnaissance squads in the Kalandra Sector have found the Dominion has withdrawn all of their remaining ships.”

“Admiral Jellico’s hunch was correct,” the Andorian th’Talach chimed in. A quick silence followed the mention of Jellico, everyone having been reminded that contact with his battle group was lost. “Recon surveys of the Klingon and Romulan fronts can find no Dominion activity. Even ships massing for attacks on Qo’Nos and Romulus have pulled out.”

“Couldn’t they have tried to attack those planets with the same goal in mind as when Earth was hit?” Limis wondered. Almost immediately, she wanted to curse herself for posing such a crass question. Of course, her thoughts at that moment were for her human crewmembers and for those residing on Earth. Why Earth and not the home planets of the Klingon and Romulan Empires?

“Let us be thankful they did not,” Bellamy replied with a narrow stare indicating that he found that line of questioning inappropriate while being understanding of it at the same time.

And thankful that they haven’t hit Bajor either, Limis silently added. That may be selfish, but I am thankful the Breen did not yet attack Bajor.

“They did still inflict plenty of damage along the way,” Ross chimed in. “They took care to take out as many capital ships and fleet commanders as possible.”

“We lost a lot of good tacticians,” Coburn added. “Admiral Sitak, General Gh’ralg…”

“Not to mention to losing contact with the group led by Admiral Jellico,” said Gündersen. “There could be any number of reasons why…” His voice trailed off upon realizing that his colleagues were still contemplating a worst-case scenario.

“The Dominion is hoping we back off as well,” Ross plainly announced, “while they take the time to regroup. That’ll put them in a much better position to win the war if we do leave them alone. That’s why we have to kick them while they’re down. This is our best chance to end the war here and now.”

Limis’s eyes widened with surprise. Never in the history of the Federation had a military operation of this scope been conducted. And slaying the dragon in its lair, to quote an Earth metaphor, would take a lot more ships than the forty thrown at the Borg at Wolf 359. “That’s very bold, sir,” she offered. “It’s going to take a lot of ships to break through that line. We’ll be lucky to get one battle group through to Cardassia.”

“Maybe so,” said th’Talach, “but it will be our best chance.”

“We’ll be massing the largest fleet ever assembled,” Bellamy informed the rest of the group. “All intact and functioning warships in this region of space will participate in a full-scale invasion.”

“The Gorn and Xindi will also be committing warships to this endeavor,” Ross added. “Several non-aligned worlds that had previously hesitated to take sides militarily will also contribute ships. We expect that will bring the total to roughly eighty-three hundred strong.

“The entire armada will still be outnumbered two and a half to one. The goal is to hit the enemy in four places—Getha, Minakus, Tirolk, and Sarpedion—hoping to punch holes in the defense perimeter and fight their way to the Cardassian system. And that’s assuming enough ships survive to mount a final assault.

“Since travel there will require three days or more, the ships involved will engage in search and rescue operations. A number of hospital ships will be along to assist.”

Many different thoughts were racing through Limis’s mind while Ross and the other admirals continued talking. After surviving twenty days in the Daxura System dodging raiding parties, a much bigger challenge was on the horizon. Once again, Limis worried both that she would not survive the pending battle and that she would. If she did survive, she probably had a court martial on trumped up charges.

What Limis was certain of, after her Maquis cell survived being on the run from the Dominion with fewer resources, was that the Federation Alliance would ultimately triumph.

###

Shinar Sh’Aqba awoke to see Erhlich Tarlazzi sitting beside her on the edge of her bed. Ever since being released from suicide watch, she had to get some sleep whenever she could. Additionally, she and Tarlazzi took turns overseeing the repairs and maintenance needed to make the ship battle ready. It was far from an efficient operation. Shinar would still get only two hours of sleep with the long repair list, but it seemed like the best way to follow medical advice.

“Sleep well?” Erhlich asked her with a wide smile.

“I’d hardly define just two hours as a good sleep,” Shinar answered with an unamused sigh.

Erhlich held her right shoulder as his smile diminished a little. “You were supposed to relieve me a half hour ago,” he reminded her. “I’m guessing the antidepressants aren’t having much of an effect. Still as grumpy as ever.”

Shinar chuckled lightly. “I haven’t tried to kill myself if that’s what you’re wondering,” she said with a smile. “I’m taking so many different medicines, I’ve stopped keeping track of all of them. Nitrosorene to extend the time I can carry our child, isoflavene for the intermittent hot flashes, and now this amoxi-whatever it’s called for the depression.

“Your life is not the only one you’re responsible for. You could always ask for a medical leave of absence.”

“Absolutely not,” Shinar huffed with a disarming scowl. She nudged the edge of Erhlich’s left shoulder, utterly surprised and even offended by such a suggestion. “You think pregnancy is a disease?”

“Whoa, of course not,” Erhlich snapped, raising his hands in surrender. “I was just saying…”

Shinar quickly calmed down and clasped his right hand with both her hands. “We’ve come this far,” she continued. “I’m not quitting now. What scares me more than dying is thinking I didn’t do enough. Being diagnosed with depression is still a grave dishonor among my people. I may have backed away from Andorian marital practices, but I still have my pride. I will not back away from this fight. I will see it through to the end, Tarlazzi.”

“And I’ll follow you to the gates of hell,” Erhlich quipped. He leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on Shinar’s lips.

“I’d expect nothing less,” Shinar purred while returning his kisses. She slowly backed away and slid out of bed. “The bed’s all yours,” she said while slowly sauntering towards the shower alcove.

***

Shinar stood in the sonic shower, leaning back against the wall while feeling sonic pulses up and down her body. With time to ruminate in solitude, Shinar felt her bare abdomen in order to establish some kind of mental bond with her unborn child. For a few moments, she asked herself if she truly had the right to continue to put another life in such danger the way she already had. It didn’t seem as black-and-white as when she swore to her lover that she would stay on duty for as long as medically feasible. What if an incident similar to when she closed that bulkhead took place and she was not so lucky? She quickly nudged that thought aside and reminded herself of a simple platitude.

Hope for the best, and prepare for the…no, no…just hope for the best and don’t even think about the worst-case scenario. If convinced she would die tomorrow, she’d probably find ways to make it happen.

###

After a long and stressful shift conducting repairs over the last eight hours, Rebecca Sullivan and Sara Carson quickly paced into the quarters they shared. Rebecca walked in first, and then Sara. Rebecca set down her engineering kit in front of the sofa and sprawled herself over one side of the sofa. Sara then placed a smaller toolkit on the desk.

“I thought that shift would never end,” Rebecca groaned while taking slow and deep breaths. “The starboard inertial compensators get fixed and the main navigational proximity sensor crashes. We fix that, and then the accelerometer relays burn out. Why should we even bother sending this ship back to the front lines? I could use a long sonic shower.”

Sara flashed a sly grin and seated herself next to Rebecca. “Mind if I join you?” she asked with a suggestive nudge of her lover’s arm with her elbow.

“I’d invite you if the alcove was big enough for two,” Rebecca said with a teasing grin, “and if it was working properly. Right now, I just want to sleep for a whole day.”

Sara blinked her eyes shut, surrendering to her own fatigue. “Me too,” she mumbled. A few seconds later, she opened her eyes with a question on the tip of her tongue. “Becca, you ever wonder?”

“Wonder what?”

“If we’re going to win this war, if it’s worth throwing away so many lives. Are either of us going to live through it? Will you still be serving in Starfleet after the war?”

That last question caught Rebecca’s attention. She had only been conscripted into Starfleet because of the Dominion War. Even as the possibility of that war soon coming to an end loomed, she never really considered whether a former Maquis would have a place in Starfleet after the war. “Every minute of every day,” she said with her eyes still closed. “But every so often, I’m reminded that it all scares the hell out of me. And so I try not to think about it and live each day as if it were my last.”

“What if it turns out not to be?” Sara asked, nudging her shoulder against Rebecca’s.

Rebecca leaned over towards Sara, resting her head on her shoulder. “Then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Sara wrapped her arm around Rebecca’s shoulder and stroked a few free strands of her hair with her fingers. “I could use a drink,” she suddenly blurted out.

“Me, too,” Rebecca replied, coaxing Sara’s arm away from her shoulder as if being reminded of something she had forgotten. “Vodka martini?”

“Sure.”

Rebecca stood up, but appeared to lose her balance from having put too much weight on her injured foot. She seated herself back on the sofa and stood back up while putting more pressure on her uninjured right foot.

“Go easy,” Sara told her. “There could still be some nerve damage.”

“I’m still taking one for the team,” Rebecca said, walking with a slight limp towards the replicator. She tapped a few keys on the computer panel, and two drink glasses materialized in the tray. “It would be simpler for me to stay behind or for this ship to stay behind,” she continued on her return to the sofa with the drinks in tow. “But then I couldn’t live with myself knowing I could’ve helped out in some way. To our upcoming victory. Cheers.”

They both raised their glasses and clinked them against each other’s. “Cheers,” Sara repeated. They took sips of their drinks and set the glasses down. A long pause followed before they shared a kiss.

###

Aurellan Markalis was stirring in her sleep, her head twitching back and forth. “Don’t you die on me on me damn it,” she was muttering.

She was reliving an incident where a patient died. What was different in this dream was that she was confused and disoriented, not sure what procedures to follow to improve the condition of a man drifting in and out consciousness. She was even administering drugs that worsened the patient’s condition despite warnings from T’Pren and the EMH-Mark III. Within seconds, the patient was dead.

Almost immediately afterwards, though, the patient blinked his eyes open. “You killed me,” he said with an ominous stare. “You could have saved me, but you chose to kill me instead.”

“No,” Aurellan insisted. “You were too far gone.”

“Was that your excuse for not saving me?” a feminine voice called.

She looked up and saw an angry mob approaching her. They were ghosts of patients who died while under her care going all the way back to when she started her internship. She slowly backed away from them, but they kept coming as she meandered towards the two main biobeds. They were saying that her incompetence killed them.

Sh’Aqba joined the mob telling her, “You killed my baby.”

“No, I did everything I could,” Aurellan insisted.

The angry mob suddenly vanished. The shouting was replaced by maniacal laughter. Aurellan turned around and saw… herself. But rather, this other Aurellan Markalis had jet-black hair and eyelids painted different shades of gray, while dressed in all black Gothic attire.

“We did this all by ourselves,” this evil doppelganger proclaimed while spreading her arms out to indicate the deck littered with dead bodies. “We didn’t need the help of the Cardassians, the Jem’Hadar, or the Breen. More people died because of us than because of the war with the Dominion.” She continued cackling while walking slowly towards one of the main biobeds. “Nurse, I’ll need fifty cc’s of sodium pentothal.”

She held the hypospray close to Shinar’s neck. Aurellan wanted to lunge towards her evil twin, but couldn’t. “She wants to die anyway,” the evil twin said, “so why not let her?” She injected the poison into Shinar’s carotid artery causing instant death.

“No!” Aurellan cried out.

She was suddenly awakened, her face bathed in a cold sweat. She was relieved that it was only a dream and terrified that such a dream could become a reality.

Aurellan leaned towards the nightstand and picked up the hypo-syringe containing the next dose of her daily tranquilizer. She stared at it for a very long moment, wondering if she really needed it. She pushed aside the bed covers and took the syringe to the replicator tray. Upon pushing a button on the computer panel, the syringe dissolved.

It was an important first step. After repeatedly insisting that she was not an addict, Aurellan Markalis received a sobering warning of what could happen if she did not kick this habit and soon.
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Old September 11 2012, 05:57 PM   #21
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Fourteen

For the last four days, survivors from the ambush at the Tong-Beak Nebula had drifted in escape pods and shuttles. One hundred fifty Federation, Klingon, and Romulan vessels had been destroyed or crippled beyond repair by enemy forces. This time, the Jem’Hadar and Breen elected not to deliberately destroy the escape pods. If they felt it was to their benefit, they would opt for leaving frightened and demoralized troops behind in escape vessels without warp capability.

Survivors among the most senior officers on the late Constantinople occupied the one runabout that had survived the ship’s destruction. Two-dozen officers were crammed into the smaller vessel with only emergency field rations that still would last what was left of the crew for several weeks. The rear cabin was arranged into a temporary medical ward where Samantha Collins could tend to the comatose Admiral Jellico.

Keith Ellison stepped into the compartment feeling strongly dejected. His head was drooped down and his shoulders were sagging as if he had lost all sense of purpose. His ship was gone. Half his crew was dead. His captain and mentor may as well have been on his deathbed. The crew that had survived was crammed into shuttles and escape pods. Some of them were huddled on the floor of the infirmary tending to each other’s superficial cuts and bruises while the doctor tended to the most critical patient.

“What’s the prognosis?” Ellison inquired.

“The same, more or less,” Collins grimly replied. “His chances of ever regaining consciousness are almost nill.”

Ellison sighed in disgust and shook his head while pacing back and forth. “I don’t why we’re investing so much to keep a man who may never wake up alive,” he grunted, “when so many corpses were left behind.”

“That’s for his next of kin to decide,” Collins calmly answered.

Oblivious to the doctor’s response, Ellison followed up on he had just said. “Why does he get a proper burial when Jeth’ron, Herron, and so many others were left behind to rot? Because he was fleet commander? Because he had a more distinguished career? Why?! And what gives you or me the right to decide who lives and who dies?”

During his diatribe, he was becoming increasingly agitated and hysterical, drawing the attention of others in the room. He quickly realized his emotional state and took in a long breath. He gradually composed himself as Collins watched quietly.

“I don’t know, sir,” Collins said somberly. “I know many of us will have a lot of soul searching to do once it’s all said and done. And many more lives will be lost before the war is over. So you need to be strong for the rest of the crew.”

“A crew that doesn’t have a ship anymore,” Ellison scoffed.

“They will be still look to you for guidance—remind them that they still have something to fight for.”

Ellison nodded in agreement. “I worry for Nave the most. She’s stayed focused through it all. She’s still just a kid for crying out loud. For her to see someone die so gruesomely… someone she cared for…”

“I don’t put much stock in all the gossip that gets around a starship,” Collins replied with a sympathetic shake of her head. “I just know no amount of academic proficiency and physical training can prepare a person for such a tragedy. She’s not the only one you’ll have to look out for.”

“Right,” Ellison breathed.

He knew very well that a captain had to be strong for his crew. Despite Doctor Collins’ constant reminders that he was still a source of encouragement for the persons under his command, Ellison was just not sure how. At least he had a very long time to figure that out without the certainty of when or if a rescue operation would arrive.

***

Truxia sat at the secondary piloting station of the runabout’s cockpit, watching as Sarah Nave piloted the vessel.

They exchanged very few words during the four days since the crew was forced to abandon the Constantinople. She tried discussing Matthew Herron with the younger woman. Each time his name was mentioned, Sarah insisted she was okay, while appearing very numb at the same time. From what Truxia had observed of this girl of only twenty Earth years, she was practically best friends with Matt, maybe even something more, but neither seemed willing to make that move.

“How are you holding up?” Truxia asked Sarah for what felt like the fiftieth in the last four days. “I know Matt was your friend, and perhaps you thought of him…”

Nave continued to stare straight ahead, occasionally looking down at her console when a display flashed. “I don’t need anyone’s sympathy right now,” she insisted. “He was one of many officers on the Constantinople killed in the last two years. There’s no sense in thinking of him as any different from the others.”

“Are you sure you’re not trying to avoid your feelings? It’s okay to grieve for him. He was an important person in your life. Mourning him doesn’t trivialize any others who…”

“Really, I’m fine, Commander,” the ensign snapped while momentarily glancing at Truxia, and then looking back at her console. “I’ll have time to mourn when this is all over. Right now, I want to help to make sure those of us who are still alive stay that way.”

Truxia wanted to keep pushing, but right now, this ship needed a pilot who was focused. There would come a time eventually where Sarah would let her feelings go. What concerned Truxia the most about her young friend was that Sarah had learned to desensitize herself to loss of life, all the way back to the destruction of the Odyssey during Starfleet’s first major confrontation with the Dominion. She and her mother were among the “non-essential personnel” evacuated from that ship, but others who were her teachers and mentors during her adolescence were not so lucky. She knew that deep down, Sarah mourned those deaths.

###

Lisa Neeley and Loukas Pherrelius were among the dozens crammed into the escape pods. In the last day, those two were tending to one of the injured Marine soldiers: a male Tellarite. An injury that seemed superficial at the time Constantinople was being abandoned had begun to include sharp pains in Corporal N’Prek’s chest and abdomen. Aside from Neeley’s and Pherrelius’ first aid knowledge, their only help was a young human female nurse practitioner. All those three could do was lessen his pain and assure N’Prek that he had a decent chance of recovery—not that he bought anyone’s claims that he would live.

“The abdominal bleeding has been reduced,” Neeley informed the patient while applying a laser device to a laceration on his stomach. “We still want to make sure to continue cauterizing the wound in your chest.”

“I’m still going to die, aren’t I?” N’Prek wondered with a wry chuckle.

“That’s the spirit,” Donna Chang retorted. “But as long as someone’s keeping an eye on you, you should be all right.”

“Hey, aren’t doctors not supposed to make grandiose promises even if they’re performing routine surgery?” the Tellarite scoffed.

“None of us here are doctors,” Pherrelius corrected with a reassuring grin, “so we’re not held to that restraint.”

“And, technically,” Neeley added, “she didn’t promise that you would survive.”

“So what are my chances?” N’Prek asked with a wheezing chuckle. “Let’s put it that way.”

“Although I don’t possess the mathematical proficiency of a Vulcan,” Chang joked, “I’d say eighty percent.”

N’Prek snickered, continuing to let humor be his best instrument of healing. So he may as well have suffered a setback when, without warning, Pherrelius, collapsed.

Neeley and Chang both lunged towards him as he experienced shortness of breath as if he would choke to death any minute. They discovered the nature of his injury upon ripping open the top of his jumpsuit and undershirt. Plasma burns on his chest were now doing damage to his heart and lungs.

“Why wasn’t this detected earlier?” Neeley demanded.

“It wasn’t this bad earlier,” Chang explained while scanning the more visible wound with a medical tricorder and a small hand sensor trained on the man’s heart. “And you wouldn’t let me take a closer look at it,” she told Pherrelius.

“You were just looking for an excuse to see me without a shirt on,” Pherrelius said with a wry grin.

“Stubborn right up to the end, huh?” Neeley shot back. She was struggling to hold in her emotions, her eyes brimming with tears as he drifted in and out of consciousness. To keep herself from having a complete emotional meltdown in front of people serving under her command, she reminded herself that such foolish stubbornness seemed like a constant among the male gender, whether human, Tellarite, or any other sentient species.
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Old September 17 2012, 07:10 PM   #22
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Fifteen

CUW Pakar

Gul Arek Latham sat at the head of the table in the briefing room just off bridge, listening to the reports of the chief engineer, Dalin Pirella Thomar. Latham had his own suspicions regarding unexpected arrival of Klingon and Romulan reinforcements outside the Tong-Beak Nebula seven days earlier. After all, he had authorized sending a clandestine communiqué disguised as a Starfleet emergency summons to those enemy vessels. The Dominion had plans to ambush a Federation Alliance battle group in the immediate vicinity of the nebula when its commander acted on intuition that the Dominion no longer considered the Kalandra sector to be of any value. The ambush would have been largely successful if not for the sudden arrival of a fresh set of ships. With Diralna attending the briefing, though, Latham needed to do his best to act as if he were disturbed by such a turn of events.

“Teams continue to analyze all computer data in an attempt to salvage deleted system logs,” Thomar informed the rest of the group, which also included Latham’s top aides, Glinns Orlak and Maret. “We’ve retrieved comm logs deleted for legitimate security reasons. We found no evidence, so far, of any transmissions of an elicit nature.”

Diralna sat across from Thomar, rolling her eyes as if she didn’t buy a single word the engineer had said. “Keep looking,” she spat. “Someone clearly sent a transmission that allowed reinforcements to arrive sooner than expected.”

Thomar gave an exasperated sigh, wanting Diralna to see how annoyed she was. The Vorta, as well as Jem’Hadar guards on the Pakar, had been harassing Thomar’s repair crews over the last seven days, accusing them of sabotage in the guise of repairs. Diralna would also arbitrarily reassign Thomar’s crew, making repairs to the vessel more difficult and arduous.

“We don’t know that’s the reason for the early arrival of the Klingon and Romulan battle groups,” Thomar shot back, trying to hold in her frustration.

“The possibility of a mole on this ship cannot be ruled out. Your efforts to discourage any such investigation might be evidence of guilt.”

“I resent the implication,” Thomar hissed. She leaned against the table, still resisting repeated urges to wring the Vorta’s neck.

“Do you?” Diralna taunted. “Interesting that your eyes widened when I suggested your complicity.”

“My eyes widened because I’ve grown weary of your paranoia.”

Latham was almost hoping the two women would start physically fighting each other. Then again, that would hardly be productive. “Ladies,” he said. “This bickering is not helping. We have to consider all possibilities. Orlak, maintain full security measures, limiting all ship-to-ship communications to the most essential of matters. No personal transmissions of any kind until this matter is resolved.”

Glinn Orlak nodded in acknowledgment, but Diralna remained unsatisfied. “It still wouldn’t hurt to investigate all Martosian and Norsaian crewmembers,” she offered, “as well as all bridge communications officers and engineering crewmembers, Glinn Orlak…”

The first officer turned his attention towards the Vorta trying his best hold in his annoyance at her unfounded supposition. “Now, wait a minute,” he snapped.

“Only because you shouldn’t trust your immediate subordinate,” Diralna explained to Latham with an amused smile, “no more than I don’t entirely trust you or any of your crew. Now, I’d like a few minutes with the gul.”

Latham sighed, but kept his calm. “You’re all dismissed,” he told his three officers. They quickly filed out, once again leaving gul alone with the Vorta. Once they were gone, he rose from his chair and towered over Diralna. “I will not have you harassing my crew with baseless accusations,” he hissed.

Diralna stood up and looked towards the slightly taller Cardassian face-to-face. “Remember your place, Latham,” she said. “You’re all on a tight leash—not just Gorr Perron.”

The name of his extra-marital love interest immediately caught Latham’s attention. He had provided Nezhak with a recording of Diralna’s communiqué with Yelgrun regarding setting up an ambush for the enemy fleet. He looked away from Diralna upon realizing what kind of tells he might have been giving off. “What do you mean?” he asked with a slight glance at the Vorta.

“As records officer, she has access to every computer file,” Diralna explained. She looked straight into Latham’s eyes, but he stared back just as firmly and as intently to give the impression he had nothing to hide.

“Even those considered off-limits to non-commissioned service personnel,” she continued. “She can break through any encrypted records if she chooses.”

“Based on what evidence?”

Diralna grinned and paced across the room. She stared at him from ten paces away, seeing if the long silence would break his façade. His expression still remained neutral. “She has a cousin who is one of the members of the rebellion still at large,” she said. “They last corresponded shortly before the revolutionaries were defeated. Before Nezhak enlisted in the military, she was an apprentice to a man with known ties to the Cardassian Underground. She has a way of acquainting herself with individuals who have little respect for authority.”

“In other words, guilty by association,” Latham replied.

“Not so tough when you or the pretty young thing who shares your bed are judged guilty until innocent,” Diralna teased while sauntering back towards Latham in slow and suggestive steps.

Latham shook his head and scoffed. It was true that he did not enjoy being a suspect in a criminal investigation under his race’s means of dispensing justice quickly and harshly. Under the Cardassian judicial system, all criminal defendants were considered guilty until proven innocent—and many lacked the means to prove their innocence—while the Federation system followed the rule innocent until proven guilty. True, both systems were flawed, but Latham didn’t know how much of a hassle one of his crew being accused of a crime without solid, tangible evidence was until now—when a Vorta was wielding baseless accusations.

“The only thing I’m guilty of,” Latham plainly stated, “is allowing you to intimidate my crew. Yes, the possibility of this type of security breach makes us vulnerable. A commanding officer still has to trust his troops to assure the unit’s cohesiveness. Of course, that’s a concept beyond a Vorta’s comprehension.”

“Your people would still do well to learn from how we conduct our military operations,” Diralna retorted, stroking the ridges on Latham’s forehead. “But back to the matter at hand—I will forego the ‘witch hunt’ if you execute Nezhak yourself.”
Latham grabbed Diralna’s wrist and coaxed it away from his own face. “Absolutely not!” he spat.

Diralna yanked her arm away and flashed a devilish smile. “Your choice,” she said. “Though if your crew learned you could have prevented all this finger pointing, they’ll never trust you again.”

Latham took a deep breath to keep his emotions in check. Again, the methods his race used to force compliance from Bajorans and other subject races were now being used on him by a Vorta. “Get out,” he hissed with a murderous rage in his eyes.

Diralna chuckled and took a few steps towards the bridge entrance. “For once, I’m happy to oblige,” she said. “Feel free to change your mind.”

Once the Vorta was gone, Latham let out a snort of derision. Despite the quandary Diralna had placed him in, the choice was clear. He would not execute an innocent woman, especially not his lover.


Dominion Heavy Cruiser 9-47
Yelgrun stared at a three-dimensional holographic display of a star map when the door to his office slid open. Without even requesting permission to enter, First Mirak’tiral paced into the office. If it weren’t blasphemous, Yelgrun would curse the Founders right now for failing to program basic social protocols into the Jem’Hadar’s genetic makeups, especially in those bred in the Alpha Quadrant.

This “subspecies” of Jem’Hadar had greater capacities for independent thought, as the Dominion was at war with its most resourceful and cunning enemy to date. At first, the Alphas were small in number, even after the mining of the Bajoran Wormhole. They became more of a necessity, however, after reinforcements from the Gamma Quadrant that would have brought a quick end to the Federation Alliance War mysteriously vanished after the minefield was taken down. Yelgrun often found the tendency of the Alphas to show greater initiative than the Gammas both pleasing and frustrating. That trait often led to heated arguments between him and First Mirak’tiral. He had a sense that Mirak’tiral was here now to lodge a complaint. No matter. It is not my place to question the will of the Founders even if they are on the verge of extinction.

“What is the meaning of this?” the First demanded as he held up a large padd containing a tactical display.

Yelgrun turned off the holographic display and stared at Mirak’tiral with a look of feigned ignorance. “I’m afraid I don’t follow,” he said.

“The recon wings consist exclusively of Breen vessels,” Mirak’tiral grunted. “I should be leading a squadron to one of those locations.”

“I require your expertise on the front line,” Yelgrun calmly explained, “for which I’ve come to depend on these last two years.”

Mirak’tiral flung the padd on the desk and looked at Yelgrun with a cold stare. “Unlike the Vorta,” he said, “the Jem’Hadar do not shy away from battle. If not fighters in this ship’s battle group, then at least one squadron at each target.”
Yelgrun flashed a wide smile while mostly maintaining his composure. “It is not just a matter of thirst for battle,” he explained. “I need soldiers I can trust on the front lines. I can rely on the Jem’Hadar in major engagements more than the Cardassians and the Breen. I would think by now you would understand how this works.”

“I understand completely. Because the Cardassians and Breen are more likely to betray the Dominion, they are cannon fodder. Many of them go along with it knowing that obedience makes victory more probable and that the price of defeat is too high. A similar arrangement exists for subject races in the Gamma Quadrant. It is still inefficient not to have the most efficient soldiers involved in efforts to soften the enemy, as was the case at Daxura.”

Yelgrun nodded as if he understood Mirak’tiral’s argument, but was just trying to purge it from his memory. “Your objection is noted, but the order still stands.”

Mirak’tiral then sauntered out of the office calmly and quietly, while still visibly annoyed. Once the doors closed, the Founder who had been giving Yelgrun orders behind the scenes emerged from the shadows, flanked by two low-ranking Jem’Hadar guards. The Changeling’s condition had neither worsened nor improved in the last twenty days. He had still been unable to change shape in that time. Yelgrun thought his death was only a matter of days.

Seeing the Founder wince in pain, Yelgrun asked, “Do you require treatment for the pain, Founder? We do not have a cure just yet, but we can make the last days of life more bearable.”

“No, but thank you,” the Founder gracefully replied.

“I trust you heard everything.”

“I did. It may have been a mistake to breed certain traits into a new subspecies of Jem’Hadar.”

Yelgrun was almost amused by that statement as he trying to keep himself from questioning his gods a few minutes earlier. “Gods do not make mistakes,” he assured the Founder with a look of submissiveness in his eyes.

“No, they do not. But Mirak’tiral is still someone to keep an eye on.”

“To what end?” Yelgrun wondered even though he knew the answer.

“The Alpha Quadrant Jem’Hadar tend to show greater initiative than the Gammas; both a benefit and a drawback. In the case of First Mirak’tiral, he may be capable of mutiny.”

“And if that is the case…”

“Order the Second to eliminate him… but do not wait too long.”

“Of course,” Yelgrun deferently replied. Because Second Turak’miron was a Gamma assigned to keep the First in check, Yelgrun felt the Second would easily carry out such an order. He also got a lingering feeling, though, it would not be that simple.
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Old September 21 2012, 10:21 PM   #23
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Sixteen

Day 25

It is written,
Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word that proceedeth,
Out of the mouth God.
(Matthew 4:4)


Cemetery of Dead Ships

The Lambda Paz had been on search and rescue patrol for the last two days while it and other ships in the Seventh Fleet were on course for the Minakus system. A dozen hospital ships were part of the battle group, standing by to receive a massive number of casualties.

Captain Limis had grown more and more anxious with each passing moment. Six days had passed, and not so much as a single escape pod. That didn’t necessarily mean that no one survived the battle, though it was a strong possibility considering how thorough the Jem’Hadar were in eliminating a target. And if no one survived, the loss of life would be far greater than at the disastrous Battle of Tyra. We’re bound to suffer much greater losses of life before we reach Cardassia Prime, she mused.

As much she believed Admiral Jellico to be a pompous windbag, Limis had also thought of him as a father figure. She barely knew her real parents, but even at forty years of age, she still looked to older individuals to advise her and protect her from herself. As much as she disdained Jellico’s rigid nature, she had learned from him the appropriate moments to reach out to her crew and when to lay down the law on the most insolent of subordinates. News of his death would be like losing a parent all over again. Then again, he was only one man among the thirty thousand men and women currently unaccounted for.

“Approaching the coordinates,” Carson called, which brought Limis back to reality.

Limis was about to respond, but couldn’t find the right words. Kozar took a quick glance in her direction, and then towards the conn. “Slow to half impulse,” he commanded.

“Reading a large number of vessels ahead,” Morrison reported.

“Surviving ships?” Limis asked, trying not to get her hopes up.

“Maybe,” Morrison said with slight hesitation. He worked the controls of his station, shaking his head in frustration. “It’s tough to make out with the EM interference. Mister Huckaby, can you compensate?”

“Trying,” Lieutenant Huckaby said with a similar look of confusion, “but so far, no active subspace fields… negligible power readings.”

“In visual range,” Carson said.

Now we might know something, the captain thought, as she stood up and sauntered closer to the viewscreen. “On screen,” she ordered aloud.

The field of distant stars on the viewscreen was replaced with a far more gruesome sight. Ahead of the Lambda Paz was a graveyard of broken and battered hulls. Pieces of debris of varying sizes—the remains of an Excelsior class vessel’s saucer section, broken warp nacelles of an Akira-class destroyer, weapon ports of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey—floated through the endless depths of space. The remains of a navigational deflector lit up the dark expanse, creating a sense of morbidity throughout the bridge. From the concentration of the debris that seemed to spread across millions of kilometers, one could deduce that all 150 ships in Constantinople’s battle group had been mercilessly torn apart.

“Is that all of it?” Kozar grimly inquired as he slowly rose from his chair.

“From what I can tell,” Morrison somberly inquired, “that’s everything within a radius 0.64 AU’s.”

“Anything to indicate even one surviving ship within the debris?” Limis persisted while almost certain no one survived this massacre. She was not about to give up that easily, especially knowing of the sense of loss Kozar and Morrison felt, as they had served under Jellico in some capacity over the last decade.

“Afraid not,” Morrison responded, trying not to look at the viewscreen.

“We may know more as we keep trying to cut through all the inference,” Huckaby said with hollow reassurance. “But it doesn’t look good. From what we can tell, all 150 ships in this area have been destroyed.”

A long moment of silence followed, with the death toll being anywhere between fifteen and twenty thousand—perhaps thirty thousand, assuming no one survived. Again, the graveyard of ships up ahead was a harrowing reminder of how ruthless and efficient Jem’Hadar and Breen soldiers were.

Huckaby’s voice once again filled the silence. “Hold on,” he said, with a slight hint of cautious optimism. “Sensors are picking up several dozen escape pod distress beacons, along with a few runabouts and type-nine shuttlecraft.”

“Conn, triangulate the locations of those distress beacons and set a course,” Limis ordered with renewed hope. “Ops, alert sickbay to prepare all triage wards for survivors and signal all hospital ships to follow us in.”

###

Doctor Markalis led a group of medical personnel through her office and into the primary intensive care unit, where the EMH-Mark Three and T’Pren were among the doctors assembled in front of the two main biobeds. Engineering and medical technicians slipped into the sickbay through a back entrance, wheeling in additional instrument trays and scanning devices, as well as foldout cots in preparation for having more patients than the standard arrangement of six biobeds.

Markalis was about to address her staff when a male technician entered, carrying a crate full of empty intravenous fluid packs. She gestured for him to set the crate down on the floor in front of one of the main biobeds.

“As you all know,” she told the assembled doctors and nurses, “we’re about to take on large numbers of wounded. The most critical cases are being taken to triage wards one and two. Doctor T’Pren, you and the EMH will see to those patients.” She was quietly amused that her lover didn’t have a name other than simply Emergency Medical Hologram-Mark Three. It may have been impersonal, but his means of identification was one of the farthest things from Aurellan’s mind. He was simply her kindred spirit. With little time to spare, she quickly put those thoughts aside, adding, “The primary sickbay facilities will also be taking in the most critically injured.”

Medical personnel began moving around in every direction, heading for their assigned areas. The EMH and T’Pren were calling the names of the doctors and nurses to accompany them to the triage wards. As Markalis supervised a technician who was filling an intravenous fluid pack, she overheard two male interns whose names hadn’t been called wondering where they were going. Just a quick glance at the two youthful men—one a blond, the other a brunette—she instantly recognized them as Doctors Chambers and Erickson.

“I’ll take ward one if you take two,” the blond-haired man said. “I get dibs on the coronary revascularization.”

Markalis snorted in disgust, remembering her internship year and how she wasn’t as callous as her peers who regarded patients and surgeries as commodities to be bargained for.

“How ‘bout we rock-padd-laser drill for it,” Erickson, the brunette, answered.

“No, no,” said Chambers. “Rock-padd-laser drill-starjelly-Captain Proton…”

“How ‘bout you boys go where I tell you?” Markalis snapped at them as they put their fists out in preparation for the parlor game. “Erickson, you have ward one. Chambers, there’s a rectal exam with your name on it in ward four.” Of course, she hadn’t seen all the patient diagnoses, but assigning Chambers one of the most embarrassing and invasive medical procedures seemed the best way to keep the obnoxious young man in line.

***

The corridors were crowded with medical personnel bringing in patients on anti-gravity stretchers. Commander Ellison was by Gregor Kopolev’s side while also directing traffic. The engineer had third degree plasma burns on his hands, face, and chest—possibly incurred when he was overseeing the evacuation of Constantinople’s secondary hull.

Ellison had plenty of time to ruminate on how he would continue to be a source of inspiration for his crew. Now that they had been rescued, he felt even more determined to stay the course and try to instill that determination on those men and women who had served under him for two years or longer.

“You’re going to pull through,” he assured the engineer, as they entered sickbay with a Ktarian female nurse monitoring Kopolev’s condition. “You’ve recovered from a lot worse…”

“Let me be the judge of that,” said a youthful-looking blonde woman.

Ellison guessed that this young woman was Lambda Paz’s chief medical officer, Aurellan Markalis. Though not putting much stock in them, he had heard rumors she was a socially awkward individual. That didn’t matter, though, as long as she was still a highly competent medical practitioner.

Markalis scanned the newest patient with a medical tricorder. “Multiple dermal abrasions, bone bruises,” she said, “and lacerated spleen. We need to get that under control.” Addressing a human male nurse, she added, “Prepare an IV drip of meraphazine.” To the Ktarian nurse, she said, “In the meantime, get him five cc’s of anetrizine.

“Yes, Doctor,” both nurses answered, one after the other in response to their instructions.

Ellison continued directing traffic as more injured were brought in through the main entrance and the door outside the CMO’s office. He turned his attention back to Doctor Markalis and wondered if she were capable of this heavy workload. Her voice sounded both confident and manic, as if she would snap at any moment.

Also in the commander’s field of vision was the door in the back of the primary ICU as it slid open. Chaz Logan was the first to walk through, followed by an injured crewman on an anti-gravity stretcher and a human female medic in a black Marine jumpsuit. They both silently stared at each other from across the spacious room. Ellison tried his best not to look visibly annoyed that Logan had survived the destruction of the USS Agamemnon. They stared at each for a moment that seemed to go on forever, as Ellison came to terms with having to put aside one of the hardest personality clashes of his Starfleet career for a while longer.

###

Mandel Morrison entered the main triage ward, directing traffic through both an entrance from a main corridor and an entrance on the other side of the room that connected the facility to the primary medical bay.

As he watched one of the wounded officers being gently lifted onto a biobed, a familiar face diverted his attention. He hadn’t seen Lisa Neeley in at least two months, ever since they had parted under less than amiable circumstances and she was transferred off Lambda Paz. She was no less beautiful to him even with her tattered red hair and dirt and grime covering her face and muscular arms. For a moment, he had expected that she would come running into his arms as if they were two star-crossed lovers who had been separated for an extended period. He was then reminded of how uncomfortable he was with maintaining a nonromantic sexual partnership with her while she continued to seek carnal liaisons with other men when she rolled her eyes and looked away from him.

Mandel strode closer to a biobed, where Lisa conversing with a dark-haired human woman about a patient on the biobed. He recognized the unconscious olive-skinned man as Loukas Pherrelius, a long-time friend of Lisa’s. Despite her claims that Loukas was like a brother to her, Mandel had a lingering feeling that this man was another one of her lovers.

“I’m afraid his condition will only continue to worsen,” nurse practitioner Donna Chang grimly informed Neeley. “It’s only a matter of time.”

“I’m very sorry, Lieutenant,” Morrison somberly stated.

Neeley had avoided looking at Morrison up until he offered his condolences. “I don’t need your insincere sympathies, Commander,” she fired back with a derisive snort.

Morrison held his mouth open to respond, but stayed silent. He had no thoughts of using her emotional state to his advantage. He simply wanted to be supportive of a close colleague and friend. Since she wasn’t accepting of his support, he thought better than to try to force any type of reconciliation.

###

Limis stepped into the ready room through the side entrance after briefing the survivors deemed fit for duty on the upcoming battle. Commanders Kozar and Ellison were right behind her. She took slow paces towards the desk and tapped the top of one of the guest chairs before circling around the desk. Ellison chose to stand, crossing his arms across his chest. Limis gave Ellison a long and sympathetic stare, but quickly backed off, sensing his desire to continue the work ahead.

“Our condolences to you on the officers and crew who didn’t survive,” Kozar offered. “Hopefully they didn’t perish in vain.”

“That’s a very hollow sentiment, Commander,” Ellison replied coldly, “considering many more lives will be lost before all this is all over. But I appreciate it. Personally, Captain, I think we’re being led to slaughter taking on the entire Dominion fleet like this. Still, what’s left of my crew is just as ready and willing to end this war here and now given what is at stake for us and future generations. As am I.”

“Good,” Limis said with an approving nod. “We need that kind of determination on the battlefield. Right now, we need to concentrate on augmenting the crews of surviving ships.”

“Of course,” Ellison agreed. “And with Jellico out of the picture, I am now fleet commander.”

Kozar’s eyebrows twitched at hearing Ellison make a rather grandiose claim.

Limis was even more taken aback by that assertion. As a fleet liaison officer, he was certainly more than qualified. Given what he had endured over the last week, however, he might not have been fit for commanding a fleet of hundreds of ships. What Ellison was saying was that he did not trust Limis because of her affiliation with the Maquis and rumored involvement with a rogue branch of Starfleet. She had experienced that many times in her dealings with more established veterans of the service, but now—in the midst of a war that would not be won cleanly—was not a good time for such a lack of trust.

“How do you figure?” Limis demanded. She stood up and looked Ellison straight in the face. “I outrank you.”

“That may be the case,” Ellison replied. He leaned on the desk, his arms propping up the rest of his body, and came eye-to-eye with Limis. “But I've served under Jellico for years. He trusts me. And I'm fairly certain the brass will grant me a promotion to that effect.”

“I’m willing to guess that the brass isn’t concerned about such minutiae,” Limis retorted, leaning closer to Ellison. “And I don’t have the authority to promote you to the rank of captain. We’re all in this together. We all need to put aside career aspirations and any other personal feelings. So as long as I outrank you, I am placing you in command of the Thunderchild.”

Ellison lifted his arms off the table and stood straight. “Fine,” he said with a repentant nod. “I wasn’t looking forward to that much responsibility anyway.”

“Considering what you and what’s left of your crew have been through,” Kozar chimed in, “I don’t blame you. We may not have enough admirals or experienced captains to lead this fight. We do have momentum on our side and an opportunity like no other to put an end to this war.”

Limis grinned, pleasantly surprised to be supported by someone who wanted to hang her eleven days earlier after the entire crew nearly perished from radiation poisoning. “Thank you, Kozar,” she said. “You’re in command of the Kaneda. Work with Ellison on assigning surviving officers to augment the crews of those and other ships.”

Addressing Ellison and Kozar, Limis echoed the words of Admiral Jellico. “Let’s get it done, gentlemen.”

The two men nodded and headed out of the ready room. Limis stared at the bridge entrance, quietly mulling over whether or not victory really was possible. All she could do was let the many officers and crew under her command believe victory was possible and try her best to let it happen.
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Old September 24 2012, 08:22 PM   #24
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Seventeen

Day 26

And saith unto him,
If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,
For it is written,
He shall give his angels charge concerning thee,
And in their hands, they shall bear thee up.
(Matthew 4:6)


Battle montage with Requiem for a Dream theme music

“How many ships?”

Limis rose from the command chair as soon as Morrison had reported enemy vessels entering sensor range. Comm chatter from other ships in the fleet indicated the enemy ships were a small reconnaissance wave.

We’re looking at five Breen light cruisers and six fighter nests,”Kozar answered from the bridge of the USS Kaneda. He and other crewmembers from the Lambda Paz, along with survivors of the recent Jem’Hadar ambush had been transferred there to after Kaneda had lost many of its crew during recent skirmishes.

“Confirmed,” added Morrison. “The light cruisers are spreading out towards our port and starboard flanks.”

They’re trying a maneuver similar to what we’re planning, Limis concluded. “Open a channel to all ships. Akira-wings, head for the flanking light cruisers, but hold the line. They’re going to try to divide and conquer. No matter how much they try and bait you, do not move too far away from the rest of the fleet. All other ships form up alongside us, the Derna, and the Calisto targeting the lead ship and fighter nests.”

***

The fighter nests broke apart into ten fighters each with organic hulls. The organic hulls allowed the fighters to merge and separate easily. While the fighters were merged, more functional ships could repair damaged ships.

Squads of Defiant, Saber, and Norway-class Starfleet vessels, along with K’Vort and B’rel-class Klingon Birds-of-Prey and Romulan starbirds fired spreads of torpedoes at two of the fighter nests before they were able to completely separate. Those fighters that did spread out and swarm towards the entire fleet fired pulse cannons that did considerable to the attacking vessels. The Starfleet ships fired phasers and torpedoes, while the Klingon and Romulan vessels fired multi-targeting disruptor charges, damaging or destroying a few of the Breen fighters. They were just a cover for the Breen fighters that moved in closer to ram various Alliance ships.

To counter this kamikaze maneuver, two Defiant-class ships swooped in and fired multi-targeting phasers and quantum torpedoes at the fighters’ maneuvering jets and impulse engines. Some of them spiraled out of control while others were still able to take out a few Alliance vessels. Just as two were about to crash into Klingon Birds-of-Prey, two Norway-class ships swooped in and fired phasers at the incoming fighters, destroying them.

Wings of Akira-class vessels led by the Kaneda and Thunderchild protected the fleet’s port and starboard flanks respectively against four of the five Breen light cruisers. They fired alternating rounds of quantum torpedoes and plasma charges, grazing the forward hulls of vessels on both sides. Swarms of fighters provided support for the light cruisers, damaging the various parts of the Akira-class vessels. The Kaneda and Thunderchild were easily able to fight them off with phaser fire from the secondary emitters in the secondary hull and nacelle pylons.

The light cruisers moved off while continuing to fire pulse cannon charges. As ordered, the Akiras stayed in formation while firing rounds of quantum torpedoes, but did not follow them. Instead, they continued targeting the fighters that were laying down cover fire as the cruisers swung around for another pass. The Kaneda and two flanking Sabers then used alternating salvos of phasers and torpedoes, destroying one light cruiser and heavily damaging another. The Thunderchild and two other Akiras used the same tactic in destroying two more light cruisers.

The lead cruiser, supported by surviving fighters, continued targeting the three Luna-class vessels and supporting Starfleet light ships. The Lambda Paz, Derna, and Calisto continued firing salvos of phasers at oncoming fighters, effortlessly destroying them, and quantum torpedoes at the light cruiser. It was eventually destroyed, enveloping two fighters. One fighter that survives continues shooting at the Lambda Paz, damaging a portion of the starboard primary hull.

###

The sickbay rocked back and forth as battle continued.

Markalis was helping set up equipment alongside one of the main biobeds when the room rocked. Sparks erupted from the floor, loosening the legs of the bed. It tipped over and falls on her. She screamed in pain as the wayward bed pinned her to the floor. A Denobulan nurse kneeled down and attended to her while asking for help to get the fallen biobed off the chief medical officer. Two male technicians grabbed both sides of the bed and lifted it up off her.

***

After that freak accident, Aurellan laid back on one of the secondary biobeds. She had stripped off both layers of her uniform top and her tank top, leaving only a brazier covering her torso to make her injuries easier to treat. The EMH scanned her with a tricorder while placing a hand sensor near her bruised abdomen.

“Abdominal bleeding, punctured small intestine, and four broken ribs,” he told her. He set the tricorder down near the edge of the biobed and stepped over a cart with medicine vials. He was loading a hypospray with one of those vials when he paused upon suddenly remembering something. “You’re still cutting back on triataline, aren’t you?”

“Of course,” she answered with a brief hesitation.

“Triptacederine can have unexpected side effects when interacting with triataline,” the hologram explained as he walked back towards Aurellan.

“Is it really necessary?”

“The alternative is to be up all night writhing in pain.”

“Go ahead,” Aurellan said reluctantly. The EMH then injected the drug into her carotid artery. “I feel better already,” she added after a brief silence.

She leaned over and kissed him on the lips without realizing that others might have been watching. She felt a wave of embarrassment while already feeling violated in her current state of undress. As the EMH began instructing two nurses on a treatment plan, Aurellan started to feel woozy, making her less sure whether the side effects were worth getting rid of the pain she was in.

###

After being treated for her injuries, Aurellan retired to her quarters. While still feeling sharp pains in her abdomen, she slipped off her blue and gray uniform jacket and blue tunic. While sitting at the edge of her bed, she pushed a keypad on the nightstand to suspend the lighting. She laid down on her back and fell asleep while still partially in uniform.

***

Hallucination

Throughout her life, Ariel had not spoken a single word.

She spent her days reading newspapers, books, and magazines, and writing lists and charts from what she had read. While not reading and writing, Ariel often retreated into a self-induced fantasy world. In this fantasy world, she was a doctor on a spaceship far in the future where she was a more high-functioning individual, but her unique intellectual gifts were recognized and embraced.

Her room had pieces of paper scattered throughout the floor, some containing what most other people considered trivial facts and passages. Some of the papers contained seemingly random sets of numbers, with the most frequently occurring numbers five and thirteen having been circled. They may have been trivial to the others, but deep down, she knew all the “gibberish” she wrote had some meaning. Written on the walls were ominous and cryptic warnings such as “Beware the Illuminati”, “The government is watching you”, “Tyranny looms, but not from who you think”, and “Do not become the enemy you seek to destroy”.

She was very often prone to such psychotic episodes that reinforced the beliefs many of the institution’s doctors that Ariel should not have been made aware the outside world. One newspaper headline that triggered this particular episode mentioned a “House Un-American Activities Committee hearing.” Each time she started writing on the walls, orderlies would put her in a straightjacket and paint over the walls.

Two of the doctors also accompanied the orderlies discussing what to do about this latest incident. “She’s been concocting some more colorful conspiracy theories about our government becoming a police state,” said Doctor Tepren. She closely resembled one of the doctors who worked for Ariel in her fantasy world. “Why do we even bother giving her all this material? It’s only feeding her schizophrenia.”

“It keeps her engaged,” a male doctor explained. Leo Houseman was similar in appearance to another character in Ariel’s fantasy world; only Houseman was more clean-shaven and spoke with a southern English accent. “It gives her something more productive to do than stare off into space dreaming of a better future that might not exist for another hundred years or so.”

“Her paranoia is enough evidence of schizophrenia,” Tepren insisted. She picked up a piece of paper off the floor and read what was written on it. “Such as the FBI putting listening devices in people’s homes”—an orderly handed her a stack of papers and she read what was written on the top sheet—“or the gradual suspension of our Constitutional freedoms.”

Houseman grinned as if he thought the latter claim was not so far-fetched. “There has been a lot of that lately; most recently, the arrest of peaceful protestors on the Columbia University campus.”

“‘Peaceful’?” Tepren skeptically repeated. “Some of them turned violent and took to vandalizing university property.”

A lie the Illuminati was selling to justify their soldiers’ excessive brutality, Ariel knew. She started fidgeting. If she had the strength to remove the straightjacket, she would. All she could do was kick some papers in Tepren’s direction.

“‘And the worst is yet to come in San Francisco’,” Tepren read aloud off one sheet of paper. “It’s the same pattern over and over again, Leo. She compartmentalizes the world around her into wild predictions of doom and gloom. Orderlies put her in a straightjacket and we take away all her reading material until she calms down. Then the whole cycle starts all over again. This time, we’re taking it all away for good this time. In fact, get rid of the radio as well.”

Houseman had been in deep thought after he heard mention of San Francisco. “There’s an important hearing going on in San Francisco today,” he said. “Turn on the radio,” he requested of one of the orderlies. “Hear It Now is starting any minute.”

A booming voice filled the room once an orderly switched on a radio perched on the nightstand next to Ariel’s bed. “Today is Friday, May 13 and you’re listening to Hear It Now. The House Un-American Activities Committees began hearings at San Francisco City Hall today. Hundreds of college students from Bay Area universities gathered outside of city hall in protest. Thirty-one arrests were made, while others were seriously injured in the police crackdown as hundreds were blasted with firehouses and forcibly dragged down the stairs...”

Tepren and Houseman both stared at each other in disbelief. Houseman sat down on the bed and stared into Ariel’s blue eyes. She looked back at him intently, her way of letting him know that she had, in fact, made a prediction that had come to fruition. She could not tell, though, from his neutral expression whether he truly believed she had an uncanny ability to find correlations between seemingly unrelated occurrences or was still just as skeptical as the other doctors.

###

It is written again,
Thou shalt not tempt
The Lord Thy God.
(Matthew 4:7)

The man’s face blurred as she blinked her eyes open and shut. When she woke up and sat up on her bed, the man sitting at the foot of her bed had visible stubble on his chin and was dressed in a Starfleet uniform.

Aurellan Markalis had returned to her reality, back in her quarters, but still convinced this dream or hallucination she had where she was a mute autistic savant in a twentieth century mental institution was every bit as real as her current surroundings. She felt her forehead, still experiencing light-headedness even after most of the drugs were out of her system. “What happened?” she wondered.

“I called you on the comm several times,” the EMH explained. “I had the sense you’d still be experiencing unexpected side effects despite your claim that you had significantly cut down on your doses of triataline.”

He gave Aurellan a chastising stare indicating that she was being less than honest about that claim. She simply sighed and looked away from him for a moment.

“I monitored your vital signs from sickbay while keeping a closer eye on the more seriously injured,” the hologram continued. “When you started exhibiting unusual brain-wave patterns, I asked Doctor T’Pren to take over, as Vulcans can go several days without sleep and came here. I wanted to see firsthand that you could ride this thing out.”

Aurellan smirked at hearing how rational her significant other was being. But then she didn’t know whether to be worried for him or appreciative of his actions. While some of her crewmates had been placed on supervised duty because their personal lives were conflicting too much with their professional lives, Aurellan and the EMH prided themselves on preventing their personal and professional relationships from conflicting with each other. Until now, neither had crossed the line between being lovers and colleagues.

“You didn’t have to do that yourself,” she told him while clasping his right hand with hers. “You could have had a nurse observe me.”

The hologram put his free hand on top of her hand. “I wanted to see you through the night. I felt partially responsible for your condition.”

Aurellan placed the palm of her left hand on the side of his face and pursed her lips on his. “You are such a gentleman,” she said, resting her forehead on his.

“Just part of my programming. I would never take advantage of a patient who was not of sound mind.”

Aurellan moved her head away and touched both of the EMH’s shoulders while flashing a wide smile. “But that you stayed by my side shows how much you care about me.”

“Of course I do,” the EMH said with a sheepish grin. “You’re very important to me.”

“Absolutely,” Aurellan assured him. “I am, just as you are to me. You may not experience romantic love in the same way us biological organisms do, but it’s demonstrated through your behavior. Focused attention on the preferred individual, rearrangement of priorities, obsessively thinking of me, certain affiliative gestures… I’m one of your biggest priorities.”

“When you put it that way,” the hologram replied with a nervous chuckle, “you’re absolutely right. You are my biggest priority.”

As they kissed again, Aurellan suddenly realized something. “Has anyone thought to give you a name?” she asked. “Something to call you besides ‘doctor’ or ‘EMH-Mark III’?”

“No,” he answered with no hesitation. “I researched famous doctors, but none of the names really stood out.”

“How about Leo Houseman?” Aurellan suggested, in reference to his doppelganger from her hallucination.

“Why Leo Houseman?”

Aurellan needed a few seconds to consider her answer. “He was a character in an old novel who reminded me of you,” she said with a slight sense of embarrassment, “someone who used humor as a defense mechanism, who often rubbed others the wrong way, but deep down was a caring and compassionate and sometimes naïve man, who encouraged others to embrace their unique gifts.”

“Then I’ll try that for a while,” the hologram replied with slight reluctance.

They both smiled while staring into each other’s eyes. As she kept her gaze on him, she didn’t see a computer program and projection of light and energy. She simply saw a man with a soul, even if such a belief could not be proven scientifically. All that truly mattered to her was his role in her reality, whether she was Aurellan or Ariel. Leo Houseman was every bit the center of her universe as she was.
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Old September 28 2012, 06:53 PM   #25
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Eighteen

Day 28


And saith unto him,
All these things will
I give thee
If thou wilt fall down
And worship me.
(Matthew 4:9)


Sarpedion System

Squads of Miranda-class light cruisers and Klingon Birds-of-Prey swooped in on a line of Jem’Hadar fighters, Hideki-class Cardassian patrol vessels, and Breen light cruisers. The Alliance ships managed to damage or destroy numerous Dominion and Dominion-allied ships. Some of them slipped through that line with three Galaxy-classes and four uncloaking Vorcha-class ships right behind and confronted an armada of Dracon and Galor-class destroyers. The Cardassian destroyers were able to fend off the enemy light cruisers with secondary disruptor arrays while firing swarms of torpedoes and disruptor salvos from the primary array at the Starfleet and Klingon destroyers.

A Galaxy-class came nose-to-nose with the Pakar, firing rounds of phasers and quantum torpedoes that knocked out a starboard torpedo tube and inflicted heavy damage to the hull near the starboard nacelle.

***

The bridge of the Pakar rocked as the Dracon-class ship continued taking weapons fire. Glinn Maret gripped the sides of the wall mounted starboard tactical station in order to stay in his seat.

“Hull breach on level five,” he reported. “Emergency forcefields are in place.”

Glinn Orlak looked up from the master situation console in front of the command chair as the bridge continued shaking. “Moderate damage to starboard warp coils,” he added. He looked towards a technician manning one of the port auxiliary stations to issue some additional orders. “Transfer emergency power to the starboard nacelle and keep our port side on the Starfleet destroyers.”

Gul Latham was monitoring his own tactical displays on the armrest of the command chair to gauge the progress of the battle. “All supporting Galor-class destroyers, target attacking vessels bearing two-six mark three-four. Alter our heading three-four-four mark seven.”

As the comm and helm officers carried out their orders, Diralna glared at both women suspiciously. She was standing in front of the bridge’s port egress, where her two personal guards were situated on both sides of the door. They simply stood in one corner of the bridge taking up space and hoping for someone on the bridge to act suspiciously.

“Tachyon surge ahead,” said Garresh Murrel.

Five D’Deridex class Romulan warbirds uncloaked. Some were right on top of Galor-class destroyers as they began firing multi-targeting disruptors.

“Why were those ships not detected earlier?” Diralna demanded as she approached the command chair.

Latham stood up and towered over the Vorta woman. “Either keep quiet or leave the bridge,” he spat.

She was a bit taken aback by his directness, but she put a hand up to signal the Jem’Hadar to stay put. As far as Latham was concerned, though, the Jem’Hadar never moved a muscle. They just stood by the door like statues.

Latham paced towards the primary helm console at the front of the bridge. “Evasive pattern nokta,” he told the pilot. “Call in all other capital vessels and Galor wings to support our position.”

Gorr Inira looked up from the port communications station. “They’re all under attack by squads of Romulan warbirds,” she informed the gul.

“Back us off, helm,” Latham snapped, as he saw ceiling panels in the compartment’s aft fall to the deck, “course two-zero-five mark three-one-zero.”

Murrel feverishly entered commands on her console trying to execute the course change. “Ventral thrusters are sluggish,” she said. “I’ll do what I can, though.”

Sparks erupted from two port auxiliary stations, sending two technicians to the deck. A fire broke out at an auxiliary station to the right of the main tactical station. Maret had to jump out of the way of the eruption. An engineering technician raced onto the bridge to put out the fire. Through all that commotion, Diralna and her guards stepped off the bridge.

Latham stared over at the port egress wondering why Diralna needed to be sneaking around when she felt she had the run of the ship, more so than its captain. He turned his focus back to the tactical station as the bridge continued rocking from additional weapon hits. “Keep firing,” he barked. “Lay down cover for our fighters with all disruptors and torpedo arrays.”

“Transferring auxiliary power to the primary disruptor array,” Maret replied while hunched over his station. “Disruptor cannons three, four, seven, and eight are offline. Shields at thirty-seven percent. Four fighter squadrons destroyed.”

“Warp and impulse engines are out,” Murrel grimly added, “switching to secondary systems.”

Latham seated himself in the command chair to take another look at his tactical display. “Lay down support for fighter squads five, eight, and twelve with flanking Galor wings.”

One of the Pakar’s disruptor cannons was able to take out one of the Miranda-class ships while three nearby Hideki-class fighters were in close combat with Starfleet fighter shuttles and Klingon Birds-of-Prey. While two Birds-of-Prey were destroyed, three Starfleet fighter shuttles slipped through the lines with two Nebula-class and four Akira-class ships right behind, firing phaser salvos at two Galor-class destroyers and two Jem’Hadar fighters.

“Pursuit course, helm,” Latham barked.

Just as Murrel was about to enter a pursuit course, Inira reported. “Incoming message from the Sadok’toran,” the Norsaian communications officer reported. “All Cardassian wings are to hold position while the Jem’Hadar and Breen pursue the ships heading deeper into the system.”

Though he had gotten used to the Cardassian military being used as pawns while the Jem’Hadar and Breen dug in further against the enemy, Latham could not believe what he was hearing. Again, his battle group was being asked to fight a potentially hopeless skirmish. “What?” he snapped.

“Sir,” Orlak chimed in, “we won’t last much longer taking this much of a pounding.”

Latham wanted to say he agreed, but the time to go against the Dominion was not yet right. Deserting in the middle of a battle would be too blatantly obvious and unbecoming of a Cardassian soldier. “Keep your place, Glinn,” he said in a hushed tone. “They’re only looking to disable our capital ships so they can more easily slip through our lines.

Orlak then looked at a tactical display on the master situation console and saw Starfleet, Klingon, and Romulan logos moving past Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen logos in single file formations. “Confirmed, sir. The rest of the enemy vessels have broken through, heading deeper into the system.”

“Have all Cardassian wings hold position here,” Latham commanded. “Damage report?”

“All warp and impulse engines are down,” said Murrel. “We only have two functional maneuvering thrusters. Shields and weapons are functioning at minimal effectiveness.”

Latham sighed in disgust. His ship was heavily damaged with many of his crew injured or killed. How much longer was he willing to lay down his crew’s lives while continuing to gather intelligence on the Dominion to pass onto the enemy? “Begin repairs,” he ordered. “Glinn Maret, you and Dalin Thomar make tactical systems a priority. Orlak, you have the bridge.”

“Aye, sir,” Orlak replied, making his way towards the command chair.

Latham kept his head up on his way off the bridge. Once he left the compartment and headed into an adjoining corridor, he leaned back up against a wall. Again, he asked himself how long he could maintain this subterfuge. When open rebellion broke out, Latham truly believed the participants were nothing more than disloyal, self-serving soldiers. As his losses continued to mount, however, Latham knew that the price of defeat was too high for the Cardassian Union, and so he continued to serve the Dominion and its war against the Federation. Little by little, he eventually decided on a more subtle approach to undermining the Dominion once its intentions to withhold military help whenever practical was made quite clear to him.

Latham would have to take more overt action against the Dominion sooner or later. Something was holding him back, though—perhaps a fear that some of his crew did not genuinely support him and that they would turn on him as soon as he staged an uprising. No matter. After the losses the Ninth Order took here at Sarpedion, he would have to act sooner rather than later.

***

Latham strutted through the corridors wondering what else could go wrong today. He headed for his quarters hoping to ruminate privately over his eventual defeat, down a few glasses of kanar, and perhaps share a night of passionate bliss with Nezhak.

He entered his quarters, his head tilted downward as the double-doors slid open. He was suddenly caught off guard when he saw a trail of blood on the carpet. He looked up and his eyes widened in horror. Nezhak was hanging from the wall, her arms and legs bound. She had been stabbed to death. A knife was still in her chest, her arms spread across, and her eyes wide with terror.

“Nezhak?!” he gasped. He raced towards the corpse and placed two of his fingers above her collarbone to feel for a pulse even though he was certain she was dead. Latham coaxed her eyes shut before resting his head on her shoulder, sobbing.

Latham was too grief-stricken to remember his last conversation with Diralna about Nezhak. He simply wanted to hold the closest thing to female companionship on the Pakar one last time.

Speaking of whom, Diralna slowly emerged from the suite’s bedchamber with her guards in tow. “I’m sure she’s quite dead,” the Vorta gloated.

Latham turned his gaze towards Diralna while brushing away tears on his cheeks. His grief quickly became murderous hatred as he glared at her for a very long moment. “You,” he hissed, using all his energy to resist throttling the pompous Vorta.

“You against two Jem’Hadar?” she taunted. “I wouldn’t risk it.” She sauntered by him suggestively while the two Jem’Hadar just stood motionless, their rifles at the ready in case Latham still made any threatening moves. “I knew you didn’t have the heart to kill her,” she explained with no hint of remorse in her voice. “But her guilt was quite clear after the Romulans overcome our ability to penetrate their cloaks. I’m still offering myself to you.” She tiptoed over to Latham and stroked his still tear-moistened cheeks.

Latham gently shoved Diralna away from himself as he took two steps backward. “After what you took from me?” he hissed, words emerging from his mouth like hardened pellets.

Diralna smiled wickedly while taking quick looks at her guards. “Maybe not now,” she teased, “but after a few lonely nights without a warm body to share your bed, you’ll change your mind.” She slowly slinked out of the cabin with her guards right behind.

Again, Latham wanted to throttle her, but couldn’t. He simply watched the doors slide shut, leaving him alone with the corpse of his lover. He walked over to the wall where Nezhak’s corpse was suspended. He leaned on the wall next to her, reaching out his hand towards her. He slid down the wall, letting go of his emotions. This sense of loss felt like more of a blow to his ego than any defeat he had experienced on the battlefield.

###


Then saith Jesus unto him,
Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written,
Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God,
And him only shalt thou serve.
(Matthew 4:10)


Yelgrun paced back and forth on the command deck of Dominion heavy cruiser nine-four seven. He passed by Torgroth, who was continuing to observe tactical displays on the master situation console in the compartment’s center. He then passed by Mirak’tiral at a communications console conferring with other ship commanders via his eyepiece headset. The Second and the Third manned two different panels to his left and right respectively. Various auxiliary stations along the port and starboard walls were manned by lower-ranking Vorta.

At some point in time, the senior Vorta decided that pacing back and forth would not sufficiently alleviate his boredom. And so he stood in the center of the command deck and reactivated the tactical display on his eyepiece, observing the movements of other vessels in the fleet. A blip on the graphic quickly caught his attention. That same blip also triggered proximity alarms on Torgroth’s console.

“Long range beacons are detecting enemy vessels entering the system,” Torgroth reported.

“Number and type?” Yelgrun inquired.

“Eighteen, mostly scouts and fighter shuttles—Starfleet light-cruisers, Klingon Birds-of-Prey, Romulan starbirds.”

Consistent with the tactic he had used when he sent a wing of Breen vessels to rattle the enemy three days earlier. “A recon wing,” he speculated.

“Looks like it.”

“Then we’ll try and soften them up like they’re trying to soften us up. All Breen fighter nests, break off and confront the enemy squadrons. First Mirak’tiral, dispatch five fighter squadrons to lend support. You will coordinate from the command deck.”

A long silence followed after the First had failed to acknowledge Yelgrun’s order. He took a few small steps towards him and stood quiet and motionless.

“I gave you an order, First,” Yelgrun persisted.

“I cannot carry out that order,” Mirak’tiral unflinchingly replied.

Yelgrun’s eyes widened in disbelief. Still, he was not afraid of what the First would do to him, as he remained certain the Second would back him up. “Excuse me?” he gasped.

“Your battle tactics to date have been overly cautious,” Mirak’tiral explained. “And we cannot halt the Federation advance towards our central headquarters by being cautious. The weapons arsenal of this vessel can take out many of the enemy’s largest capital ships with one salvo. Yet you do not use that arsenal enough to our advantage.”

Yelgrun smirked, as if amused by the bold words of a subordinate capable of snapping his neck in one quick motion. “Second Turak’miron, relieve the First.”

Turak’miron vacated the communications console and sauntered towards the First. “I will not carry out that order either,” he plainly stated. “The Alphas and Gammas may not always agree on the best battle strategies, but I do agree with the First that passivity will inevitably lead to our defeat.”

Still unfazed, Yelgrun nodded in admiration of the solidarity the two different breeds of Jem’Hadar were showing. “That would seem to conflict with your motto of obedience bringing victory,” he quipped. Of course, the Alphas were known for saying that obedience made victory more probable. He had also heard of instances where Jem’Hadar chose to disobey orders and face execution rather than act dishonorably. He still remained outwardly confident he would survive the next few minutes while quite certain that his demise was inevitable. “Third Ikan’irral, relieve the First and the Second.”

Ikan’irral slowly sauntered towards his two superior officers, with one hand on his disruptor pistol. He slowly drew his weapon and pointed it in the direction of the two senior Jem’Hadar. “Obedience brings victory,” he proclaimed. After a brief and eerie silence, he trained his weapon on the Vorta, adding, “But obeying you will bring defeat.” He then shot Yelgrun dead.

The First and Second drew their rifles. They, along with the rest of the Jem’Hadar on the command deck killed the other Vorta, including Torgroth. Mirak’tiral did a visual survey of the deck, seeing dead Vorta littering the floor and only Jem’Hadar still standing. “Secure the command deck, Second,” he ordered his immediate subordinate. “Third Ikan’irral, take a team below and round up all the Vorta. Anyone who resists, shoot them. Once that is done, see to the Founder’s safety.”

The Third stood at attention while watching the Second step off the bridge with three other soldiers. “What do we tell him?” he eagerly inquired.

“Tell him that disloyal Jem’Hadar have killed most of the Vorta and are plotting to seize this vessel,” Mirak’tiral replied.

Ikan’irral nodded in acknowledgment of the order and marched off the command deck accompanied by two lower-ranking Jem’Hadar.

“Sixth,” Mirak’tiral addressed a Jem’Hadar now manning the primary communications console, “relay the Vorta’s orders, only this ship and five battleships will be joining them.”

“Now is our time to demonstrate what we are capable of,” he proclaimed to all his fellow soldiers still present, “Alpha and Gamma Quadrant Jem’Hadar alike. We will no longer shy away from taking extraordinary risks to achieve victory, even if that means laying down our lives. Because in the end, victory is life for all of us. We do this in service to the Founders and no one else. No longer will we bow before some cowardly Vorta.”

***

Below decks, the Jem’Hadar were rounding up the ship’s Vorta crew. Three Jem’Hadar had resorted to dragging one of the engineering technicians out of his quarters. He put up more of a fight than they had expected, slugging one in the abdomen and grabbing another’s gun. The Vorta was only able to reach an adjoining corridor before one of the still armed Jem’Hadar shot him dead. In the midst of that melee, the third Jem’Hadar in that group ran off in the opposite direction. He kept running until he reached the Founder’s quarters, where two Jem’Hadar were guarding the door.
“The Founder is not to be disturbed,” the guard to the right of the door informed him.

“He must be warned,” Seventh Trok’dalon replied. “He may be in grave danger. The First has staged a mutiny. I had hoped to get to the Founder before his supporters did. All the Vorta on the bridge are dead, and the rest are being taken into custody.”

“How do we know you are not one of the mutineers attempting to set a trap for the Founder?” the guard flatly answered.

“I serve the Founders from now until death,” Trok’dalon persisted. “The mutineers believe they are continuing to serve our gods despite their treachery. We still answer to the Vorta. That is the order of things. It is not our place to question the rules our gods have laid down. If they can waiver on this, then they are just as capable of harming or even killing a Founder.”

Without warning, the double doors parted and the Founder stepped out into the corridor. Trok’dalon was both amazed at having seen a Founder for the first time in his life and terrified at the sight of a god’s life withering away. “You are to be commended for your unwavering loyalty, Seventh,” the Changeling declared.

“Once the Federation and its allies are defeated, I will recommend you for promotion to Third. You are absolutely right that questioning the order of things makes them capable of harming even me. We must stage a counterstrike to purge this vessel of any disloyalty, even if that means killing many of your own soldiers.”
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Old October 2 2012, 10:48 PM   #26
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Nineteen

Day 30

Limis Vircona stared blankly at the desk monitor in her quarters waiting for her transmission to Bajor to be acknowledged.

She had made a point to keep in touch with her son ever since she had freed him from the clutches of the infamous Cardassian scientist Crell Moset to let him know that he was an important part of her life. He had resented her for placing the Maquis ahead of finding him after he had gone missing. They had exchanged letters on a weekly basis after they had escaped Sentok Nor. She told him about the progress of the war to provide a more firsthand perspective of the mostly impersonal News Service reports while he told her about life at the university.

Limis had nearly nodded off when the computer chimed. “Transmission received,” its feminine voice intoned.
She flashed a wide smile, something she rarely ever did in the last two years, seeing the young man’s light blue eyes and dark blond hair. The exchange of written messages was helpful in maintaining a mostly strained relationship, but still impersonal. Seeing his face through a live transmission brightened her day. He was the one light in her life, the one constant in an otherwise chaotic universe.

“Mother, this is a surprise,” Hasin Yanith said with a blank stare. “You usually send time-delayed recordings. Is everything all right?”

She reduced her smile to a smirk, realizing she often tried to soften the blow of bad news with a smile. “Everything is fine for now, son,” she assured him. “I just wanted to talk to you face-to-face, just in case I…” She couldn’t bring herself to finish that sentence. She was mostly worried that her son would seem indifferent to the possibility of her demise. Despite the rocky state of their relationship, she knew losing both parents just two years apart would be tough on Yanith. “Let’s just say the Dominion will make us fight for every inch of space.”

“Is it really that bad?” Yanith inquired. “I’ve been hearing that they’re massing for one last strike, that most of us won’t live to see the final outcome.”

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Vircona said with a more somber expression. “Win or lose, we’re going to lose many lives before it’s all over. I just wanted to let you know how much I love you in case we never see each other again.

“I may have placed my work ahead of you over the years. That comes with being a single mother. Of course, if I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t abandon you on Tevlik’s moonbase. If you don’t see me again, just know that I did this for you. I’m going to do whatever I can to keep Bajor safe, and hence keep you safe.”

“It’s quite all right, Mom. I forgive you. I might not have been able to say it while I was under the tender care of Crell Moset or when you chose to send me away again as if I was an inconvenience. I’ve had some time to think, and I know you had your reasons for everything you’ve done. I know that deep down, you care about me and want to do everything to keep me happy and safe.”

Vircona’s eyes were brimming with tears as she simply overcome with elation that her son had forgiven her negligence. While he was an adult, she knew he couldn’t deny how much his mother’s love was a source of emotional strength for him. Those words had now given her reason to survive the next few weeks. “You have no idea how relieved I am to hear you say that,” she replied. “Stay safe and wish me luck.”

“Stay safe, mother. We may not believe in the Prophets, but I will pray for your safe return home.”

“Thank you. That means a lot. I love you, son.”

“I love you too, mother.”

After the transmission ended, Limis played it back, paused it, and stroked her son’s face.

***

Rebecca Sullivan entered the cabin she shared with Sara Carson not expecting her cohabitant to be there. That was why Rebecca stopped in her tracks, at a loss for words when she did see her. Sara had just lit the first candle of a menorah, situated on the coffee table in the living area.

“I just dropped by to pick up a toolkit,” Rebecca said nervously, trying to avoid coming across as disrespectful towards a long-practiced religious ritual. Humans who had any religious affiliations had been increasingly rare in recent centuries, ever since interstellar space travel was achieved. Rebecca was not particularly enamored with any particular human or non-human religious practices, but she was open to the possibility that a divine being existed on some higher plane of existence even if it could not be proven. Most of all, Rebecca was pleasantly surprised to learn that her lover practiced any type of religious ritual. “I thought you’d be on the bridge by now,” she added.

“Not for another ten minutes,” Sara replied, as she placed the candle used to illuminate the first candle in the center of the menorah. She grinned when she saw Rebecca still staring awkwardly at her and at the display of candles. “It’s a menorah,” she explained. “The illumination of lights on each of the eight days of Hanukah is meant as beautification of the mitzvah.”

“I know what it’s for…mostly,” Rebecca replied as she circled the table while keeping her awed gaze on the lit candles. “I just didn’t know you were…what’s the word…Jewish?”

“Not entirely; Sephardic Jewish ancestry on my mother’s side.”

“So what do we do after it’s lit?”

“We pray and meditate.”

Rebecca flashed a grin of embarrassment. “I’m afraid I don’t know any prayers.”

“Neither do I. We’ll stick to meditating; reminding ourselves that all life is sacred even as we cope with the reality that so many flames will go out today and beyond.”

Rebecca couldn’t help but be moved by Sara’s eloquence. Her eyes brimmed with tears as she remembered all the losses the endured throughout her life and that all the candles in the universe could not adequately memorialize the deaths of her parents, the thousands of her friends and colleagues in the Maquis who were mercilessly slaughtered by the Jem’Hadar, and most especially, her husband. True, Michael Eddington was her past and Sara Carson her present, there would always be a place in her heart for her deceased husband. And many more lives would still be lost before the war was resolved. “That was beautiful,” she told Sara.

“I thought so,” Sara modestly replied.

###

Then cometh Jesus with them,
Unto a placed called Gethsemane…
(Matthew 26:36)
Then saith unto them,
My soul is exceeding sorrowful,
Even unto death.
(Matthew 26:38)


Nightwish: Gethsemane/Gothic Sanctuary

Limis was seated at the command chair, anxiously waiting for a perimeter alert to sound. She took quick glances at Morrison at tactical, then Carson at the conn. She was then reminded of who was absent, seeing an empty chair to her left and a fair-skinned human male officer at ops. Kozar and Huckaby, she remembered, were temporarily reassigned to the USS Kaneda by her order as captain and tactical officer respectively.

The expected perimeter alert sounded, nearly knocking Limis out of her seat, as her focus had been entirely on reading status reports on a padd.

“Enemy fleet coming into range,” Carson reported.
“Shields at full strength,” added Morrison. “All weapons charged.”

“Open a channel to all ships,” Limis commanded while rising from the command chair. “We’re launching a three-pronged attack,” she announced once Morrison had opened a ship-to-ship communications channel. “Light cruiser wings five through fifteen will take on the Cardassian squadrons on the outer formation. All Luna and Akira wings will take on the Jem’Hadar and Breen in the center to try to open a hole in their lines.

“The Lambda Paz, Kaneda, and Thunderchild will lead a squad of ships towards the sun. Our hope is to induce a solar eruption that will knock down a considerable portion of the enemy ships. When I give the order, break off and do not look back. This tactic has already worked before when the Monac Four shipyards were taken out. That also means they’ll be prepared for it. Nevertheless, this will give us a better chance of fighting our way to Cardassia. So stay sharp and be prepared for anything.”

***

Waves of Nebula and Miranda-class ships spread out and fired at a line of Galor-class destroyers while fighter shuttles took on Hideki-class patrol vessels. They remained fairly evenly matched, but a few Starfleet fighters managed to slip past the fireball of exploding enemy ships.

Breen and Jem’Hadar fighters closed in on a line of three Prometheus-class ships, firing simultaneously at the three ships’ forward sections. The Starfleet ships returned fire with both phasers and quantum torpedoes. Two of the Breen fighters were destroyed while a trio of Jem’Hadar fighters swerved out of the way. A wave of Saber and Norway class Starfleet ships, Klingon Birds-of-Prey, and Romulan starbirds moved up alongside the formation and confronted two dozen Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters behind the first line of fighters. Phaser salvos slowed down the advancing enemy ships while swarms of torpedoes damaged or destroyed a third of all the oncoming ships.

The Lambda Paz, Derna, and Calisto swooped in on the center of the enemy formation, firing alternating rounds of phasers and torpedoes at a group of Jem’Hadar battleships and Breen heavy cruisers. A line of Akiras, Klingon attack cruisers and Romulan warbirds provided supported alongside the three Lunas, knocking down supporting Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters. The Lambda Paz was able to take out one of the two Dominion battleships.

“We destroyed out one of the Jemmies,” Morrison reported, “while the flanking Breen ships are moving around for another pass.”

“Target secondary phaser arrays on those ships,” Limis replied while glancing from her tactical display. “Helm, move us through that wedge up ahead.”

“New heading: eight-six mark three-four seven,” Carson said as she entered the new course.

Derna and Calisto,” Limis added. “Follow us in while laying down cover fire against those Breen cruisers. Thunderchild and Kaneda, call in as many support vessels as you need and keep all the surrounding vessels occupied. Anyone else who gets through doesn’t stop until we reach the sun.”

###

The command deck of Dominion heavy cruiser 9-47 was now being manned mostly by Jem’Hadar. Second Turak’miron manned the master situation console at the center of the compartment. Third Ikan’irral and other lower-ranking Jem’Hadar manned surrounding stations. Various auxiliary stations throughout the command deck were manned by low-ranking Vorta, who held no positions of authority outside of their own departments. They were also in no position to try to stage any type of counter-insurgency, so they simply accepted the changing of the guard without question in order to spare their own lives.

Turak’miron looked up from his console when his display indicated about a dozen enemy vessels had penetrated Dominion lines. “They appear to be headed for the sun, First,” he offered. “They may be trying to trigger a solar eruption similar to the one that destroyed the Monac Four shipyards.”

“Then we must make sure they do not reach their target,” replied Mirak’tiral. He adjusted his eyepiece containing a holographic tactical to zoom in on three Luna-class destroyers fighting their way past Dominion and Breen battleships. The center ship was designated USS Lambda Paz. “Move us within twenty-thousand kilometers of the center ship,” he went on with a brief glance at Ikan’irral, and then back at Turak’miron, “and engage all forward torpedo tubes. Target launchers one through three on the center ship and the rest on the two flanking vessels.”

“Yes, First,” Turak’miron quickly replied.

“Closing to within twenty thousand kilometers,” Ikan’irral added.

###

The humongous Dominion heavy cruiser homed in on the formation of Starfleet vessels, firing swarms of plasma torpedoes. One spread of torpedoes plowed into the Thunderchild, heavily damaging the saucer section’s aft.

Keith Ellison firmly grasped the arms of his chair to keep himself from being thrown to the deck by the back and forth rocking of the bridge. He took brief glances at Truxia, who was manning operations slightly to the left of the two command chairs, and then at Sarah Nave, manning the helm. The Bolian manning the tactical station, slightly to the right of the captain’s chair, was Lieutenant junior grade Jovis Ren. According to his file, Ren had served on what seemed like a dozen different ships since the war began.

Ellison knew firsthand how flexible ship assignments tended to be during wartime. Much of the crew of the late Constantinople had been reassigned elsewhere, including the Thunderchild after she lost her captain and first officer, along with many key officers.

“Hull breach on deck five,” Ren grimly reported. “Aft plasma conduits there have ruptured.”

“Evacuate that section,” Ellison barked. For a second, he had forgotten the Bolian officer’s name, but then put that thought aside. In the heat of battle, he had no time to worry that this lower-ranking officer might not be as competent a tactical officer as the late Jeth’ron. “Route emergency to shields,” he added while consulting his tactical display on a panel on the chair’s right armrest. “Call in light cruiser wings ten and thirteen for support. Evasive pattern delta.”

Truxia futilely tapped controls on her console, but all she got was static. “I can’t get through to any ships beyond ten thousand kilometers,” she grunted in frustration. “Communications are being jammed.”

“Damnit!” Ellison hissed, smacking the right armrest of his chair. “Try to compensate. Helm, bring us about. We’re going to take them head on.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Nave tried to assure him, “but they’re still closing.”

***

The bridge of the Lambda Paz rocked hard from enemy weapons fire. A fuel conduit ruptured in the wall behind the tactical, from which Morrison was able to duck away. “We’ve just lost number two shield,” he reported. “Number three shield at sixty-three percent.”

“Reroute auxiliary power,” Limis snapped. “Stand by to bring us about. Load forward and aft torpedoes. Attack pattern beta rho.”

“Torpedoes ready,” Morrison said as his hands hovered over the controls.

“Mark!”

***

The Lambda Paz fired aft torpedoes, and then quickly arched around firing another swarm of torpedoes from the two forward launchers. The torpedoes plowed into the hull, scorching large portions of the forward hull on the port side. The Kaneda fired torpedo spreads that damaged the starboard side.

“Heavy damage to launchers three, five, and eight,” Huckaby reported while jumping out of the way of gushing sparks.

“Any luck breaking through that jamming field?” Kozar inquired.

“Not yet, sir.”

“Keep at it. Hopefully, some of those other ships will figure out that we could use some help.”

***

A few supporting ships swerved in on the heavy cruiser, firing alternating rounds of phasers and torpedoes. More ships joined from behind, including three Prometheus-class ships that engaged multi-vector assault mode. The three modules of each of the ships, damaging the heavy cruiser’s warp nacelles.

“We’ve knocked out three more of their torpedo launchers,” Morrison reported. “Moderate damage to nacelle field emitters.”

“Stand by,” Limis said with her focus on the tactical display. She waited until most of the ships, indicated in the form of Starfleet logos, had swung past the heavy cruiser. “Break!”

The Lambda Paz and the flanking vessels spread apart and swung back in the direction of the Minakus star.

***

The Lambda Paz, along with the Thunderchild and Kaneda sped towards the star with the Derna and Calisto bringing up the rear. A swarm of Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters emerged from the stars corona. The Jem’Hadar fired aimless disruptor salvos in the direction of the five ships while the Breen fired pulse cannons. Just as the two rear ships were breaking off, a Jem’Hadar and a Breen fighter rammed into the Calisto, blowing it apart.

Undaunted, the three ships charged with triggering the solar eruption continued moving closer and closer to the sun. At the same time, the ships that continued to engage the enemy broke off their attacks, tractored away disabled ships, and streaked into warp.

The Lambda Paz, Thunderchild, and Kaneda spread apart and moved closer to the surface of the sun. They fired simultaneous phaser bursts at the sun, triggering the expected solar eruptions. Three large plumes coursed from the sun, vaporizing several hundred Dominion, Cardassian, and Breen vessels.

###

“By the Founders, get us out of here!”

Mirak’tiral’s expression was one uncharacteristic of a Jem’Hadar. He could not contain the terror in his voice as he watched one of the solar eruptions moving closer and closer to his ship.

“Engineering is having trouble generating a stable field,” Ikan’irral nervously explained.

Mirak’tiral grunted in frustration. “We have seven redundant power cores,” he snapped. “Surely, the enemy fleet didn’t damage all of them. Route power from one of them and get us out of here.”

“It’s not that simple, First,” Ikan’irral attempted. “We need to…”

“We are not interested in excuses, Third,” Turak’miron hissed. “Just take us to warp before we’re all vaporized.”

Right on cue, a chirping on Ikan’irral’s console caught the Third’s attention. “We have warp three.”

“Then engage!” Mirak’tiral snapped.

The heavy cruiser’s warp nacelles lit up, but were still sluggish in bringing the ship to warp. As the ship was moving away at impulse, one of the solar eruptions clipped the aft. Within a second, the ship streaked into warp to escape further damage.

***

Dominion heavy cruiser 9-47 was only able to stay at warp for an hour before it slowed to impulse.

Seventh Trok’dalon had been monitoring repairs to the ship from the main engineering section while serving as a spy for the Founder. He had never envisioned a scenario in which he would have to go against his fellow soldiers. It was not entirely unprecedented. Every so often, a troop commander executed an insubordinate soldier or a lower-ranking Jem’Hadar executed his superior by order of a Vorta. That was to assure discipline within the unit. Instances of open rebellion were comparatively very rare, and those rebellious tendencies were quickly rooted out of the gene pool. The cold, hard fact of the matter, though, was that his shipmates had broken their oath to the Founders. They were disloyal soldiers who had to be exterminated.

After warp capability had been lost, he headed for the Founder’s new quarters, which was designated headquarters for the counter-insurgency. The Founder and his personal guards were already present upon his arrival.

“Founder,” Trok’dalon said with a bow of his head. “The ship has fallen out of warp and is now at one-half impulse. Repairs are being rushed to the warp drive. Most lower-ranking Vorta are now serving the insurgents to assist in the repairs.”

“We will need to do whatever we can to slow repairs,” the Founder replied. “That means sabotaging key circuitry.”

“We have an adequate number of troops who support the counter-insurgency.”

“Excellent. And what of the primary locational transponder?”

“We have been unable to access it yet, so whether the insurgents have shut it down or have altered the frequency is uncertain.”

“Access to the transponder will be your top priority then,” the Founder informed the young Jem’Hadar. “We have to let others know this vessel has been hijacked by disloyal soldiers.”

“Of course,” Trok’dalon replied with another bow of his head. “I serve the Founders in all things.”

The withering Changeling returned the bow in acknowledgment. “Your fidelity is appreciated. Now get to work retaking this ship.”

Trok’dalon turned around and headed out of the cabin, now feeling uncertain he could carry out taking back this monstrosity of a heavy cruiser.
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Old October 5 2012, 06:41 PM   #27
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twenty

Day 35

And as they did eat, he said,
Verily I say unto you,
That one of you shall betray me.
(Matthew 26:21)


Switching sides

On the bridge of the Pakar, most of the officers and crew stared at the viewscreen as a public announcement was made by Weyoun on Cardassia Prime. Inira had stumbled across it while monitoring communications chatter across core sectors. Orlak had asked her to play the message on the main viewer after she had heard it in its entirety.

“We know these disgraceful acts of sabotage were carried out by a mere handful of extremists,” Weyoun coldly declared in his message. “But these radicals must come to realize that their disobedience will not be tolerated. That you, the Cardassian people, will suffer the consequences of their cowardly actions. Which is why I must inform you a few moments ago, Dominion troops reduced Lakarian City to ashes.”

Maret lowered his head and grumbled in disgust. Orlak took a momentary glance at him, remembering that Maret’s immediate family resided in Lakarian City. He was certain that other members of his crew lost friends and relatives in this attack.

“There were no survivors,” Weyoun went on. “Two million men, women and children gone in a matter of moments. For each act of sabotage committed against the Dominion, another Cardassian city will be destroyed…”

The coldness in the Vorta’s voice, his business-as-usual attitude created a morbid chill throughout the bridge. Though growing up believing that Bajorans and other subject races were inferior, he now felt a level of empathy for the victims of the kind of casual brutality Weyoun and the Dominion were practicing on his race.

Latham stepped onto the bridge from his office as soon as the message concluded. Orlak was unable gauge his gul’s state of mind. His facial expression remained neutral and he maintained a strongly professional demeanor.

“You heard?” Orlak inquired.

“I did,” Latham plainly replied.

Orlak rolled his eyes. Over the last decade, he was more than willing to carry out Latham’s orders without question. At this moment, though, he could no longer keep his objections to himself. “Two million dead in the blink of an eye,” he rasped with cold rage. “What are you going to about that?! Defeating the rebellion was one thing. But surely you’re not going to sit by while millions of non-combatants die at the hands of our so-called allies!”

His voice began to carry across the bridge, catching the attention of many of the bridge crew.

Latham shot the officers and crew disarming stares, indicating that they should get back to work. “Keep your voice down, Printus,” he told Orlak with a hissing whisper. “We don’t know how many listening devices she has hidden on the bridge. You’re right that such cowardice demands immediate retaliation. First, we must get rid of the Vorta and the Jem’Hadar under her command. And I have a means to do that.”

He turned his attention to the chief engineer, who was writing up status updates while analyzing a schematic of the Pakar on the master display screen. “Dalin Thomar,” he continued, “is the acoustic dampening field in my quarters in place?”

“Yes, sir,” Thomar replied, looking up from a padd in her hand.

“Good,” Latham said with a light nod. “Orlak, if you do not hear from me in one hour, institute emergency security protocol five-eight-nine-ultraviolet. And I have further orders encrypted in my office’s desktop monitor.”

As the gul stepped off the bridge through the port egress, the rest of the bridge crew exchanged skeptical glances amongst one another. Orlak seemed just as skeptical. He knew that times like these required great discretion and that specific plans could not be revealed to just anyone. He still wished he knew something—anything about how Latham planned to get rid of that tyrannical Vorta and her thugs.

###

Arek Latham entered his quarters, seeing two Jem’Hadar guards standing at both sides of the doorway to his bedchamber. They stared blankly at him as he removed his weapon holster. He hesitated for a brief moment, wondering if one of the guards would kill him the instant he threw down his disruptor pistol. They still remained oblivious to their surroundings, so he let the holstered weapon fall to the floor. Continuing to stare in the direction of the two guards, Latham crouched down and removed his backup gun from his left boot. He wondered if those guards would even care if he kept the second pistol on his person while he joined Diralna in his private bedchamber. On the other hand, the Jem’Hadar showed no indications of satisfaction that he was unarmed.

He took slow steps to the doorway, keeping a close eye on both Jem’Hadar and resisting the temptation to grab one guard’s gun. If he did that, he’d be lucky to kill that guard before the other one killed him. That would have to wait, of course, until after his business with Diralna was completed. He slowly slid the double-doors open, completely unprepared for what might await him.

“I’m ready to go if you are,” Diralna matter-of-factly stated with her hands rested on her hips while standing in the center of the room fully nude.

Latham’s jaw froze in shock and awe as he thought that he might have stepped into a holosuite with one of the more erotic programs still running. He was again reminded that, like the Jem’Hadar, the Vorta were simply bred to do the Founders’ bidding. This particular Vorta was one of many females of her race bred to use sexual attractiveness as a means of manipulation. She was still, in all likelihood, not fully versed in how various humanoid races experienced physical intimacy.

Latham stammered, at a complete loss for words. He simply stepped into the bedchamber and slid the doors shut. Diralna took quick steps towards him and snapped off the armored portion of his uniform. She firmly grasped his arms and ran her nose and chin along his neck ridges.

“We should slow this down a bit,” Arek suggested, grabbing Diralna’s arms and coaxing her away. He looked up and down at her naked body, seeing no aberrations from the basic humanoid female anatomy.

Diralna rolled her eyes and sauntered suggestively towards the bed. She sat down on the bed in a kneeling position, both hands on her thighs. “It makes no difference to me,” she said. “I am familiar with multiple sexual techniques, though I do find all the foreplay rituals a bit redundant.”

“They do add some extra enjoyment to the experience,” Arek explained with a slight stutter while loosening his trousers. He stepped out of his boots while sliding off his trousers, and then kneeled on the edge of the bed.

***

He ran his hands firmly up and down her shoulders as he softly kissed her neck. Diralna arched her head away from him hoping to take in less of the revolting odor that emanated from a Cardassian’s breath.

She firmly grasped the backs of his shoulders with her hands and then dug the fingernails on her right hand into his graying hair while running the other hand down his lower back. She slowly let out a pleasured groan as her chin arched upward and her shoulders stretched further apart. She breathed heavily, looked him in both eyes and nudged his shoulders, letting him land softly on his back. Her breasts gyrated as she firmly grasped his wrists. She laid herself down with her head rested on his chest.

They rolled over across the bed, so that he was on top of her. His right hand crawled up her chest and right shoulder and over to a nightstand. He grabbed a hypospray that caught Diralna’s attention. She grabbed his wrist, hoping to maneuver the hypospray towards his neck. “I should have known,” she sneered.

She struggled with all her might, but he was stronger. He jerked the hypospray back towards her and promptly jammed the tip of it underneath her chin.

“What have you done?” she wheezed, gripping Latham’s neck with one hand. Her other hand then found the Cardassian’s neck as she hoped for him to die with her. He grabbed her wrists, hoping to force her hands off his neck. She let go by herself as she felt her own life draining away. As if a machine had slowly shut off, all Diralna’s neural function stopped—her eyes and mouth still open at the instant of death.

There was a creature in human mythology known as a succubus. To spend a night with such a creature meant death to any unsuspecting males. Diralna was very much like a succubus or the equivalent being in the ancient Hebitian mythos. Latham knew that going into this exercise and was fully prepared.

Latham slipped out of bed and threw on some black undergarments lying on the floor. While completely covering the Vorta woman’s nude corpse with a sheet, he stared coldly at her lifeless face. He felt neither triumph nor remorse for ending her life. He simply saw her as an obstacle to his greater goals. He put on the black vest that he usually wore under his uniform armor that was draped over a chair. He grabbed the communications device on the left wrist and tapped the large middle button.

“Report to my quarters, Doctor,” he said. “The bitch is dead.”

###

The double doors slid open a crack and a grenade rolled out. The Jem’Hadar made a quick visual inspection of it before it exploded, sending them backwards. Latham emerged from the bedchamber, partially in uniform with the exception of the armor, and used the moment of distraction to kill both guards. Some shooting was heard out in the corridor, as Cardassians and Jem’Hadar were exchanging weapons fire.

Doctor Ereb Pretac then entered the suite, accompanied by two security guards, shortly after the shooting outside had stopped. While he was a military officer like almost all of the crewmembers, Pretac was dressed in more casual, albeit rather bland attire. He wore a black vest containing the Cardassian Union logo and a semicircular turquoise crest on the right symbolizing the Union’s medical consortium over a long-sleeved light gray shirt, along with black trousers and boots.

“You know what to do, right?” Latham asked his medical officer, as if he had already been briefed on his plans.

“Yes,” Pretac answered with a brisk nod. “Extract her termination implant and neutralize the homing device. And if you wish, I can create the appearance that she died from cardiac arrest brought on by her copulation with you.”

Latham flashed a devilish smile, certain that no one, not even a Founder or a Jem’Hadar, loved Diralna enough to question that. “Even better,” he said. He then tapped his communications device again to hail the bridge. “Bridge, this is Latham. You know what to do.”

“In order to minimize losses on our side,” Pretac added. “I’ve prepared a virus that’s tuned to certain genetic markers found only in Jem’Hadar. It should accelerate symptoms that are the result ketracel-white withdrawal. Dalin Thomar is working on releasing it into the environmental ducts as we speak.”

Latham was reminded of Pretac’s work with the biological warfare division. He detested the idea of using genetically-engineered viruses as a means of wiping out entire populations. By the standards of other races, Pretac was a criminal. Given the current circumstances, however, such a maneuver was necessary. After all, no one would shed any tears over a few dozen more dead Jem’Hadar.

“Why was I not informed of this earlier?” Latham curiously inquired.

“Plausible deniability in case anything went wrong,” Pretac blithely replied.

Latham smiled and patted Pretac on the left shoulder. “Your initiative is appreciated,” he said. “I will recommend you for a special commendation if we survive the next few days.”

***

In the engineering section, six Jem’Hadar were keeping a close eye on the Cardassians to make sure they did not surreptitiously sabotage any key system. All of sudden, two of them began writhing in pain and soon collapsed on the deck. The other four tried to rush to their aid, but were too late. Two of them suddenly began feeling intense pain throughout, feeling an urge to kill everyone else in the room.

Gorr Dronnek, a Martosian who dwarfed even the Jem’Hadar, marched towards the two guards still standing, using the moment of distraction to snap one soldier’s neck. He then grabbed the wrist of the other Jem’Hadar, who was wielding a knife. A Cardassian male then fired a lethal disruptor blast at the last remaining Jem’Hadar.

***

Glinn Orlak relinquished the command chair when he heard the port egress door open. Gul Latham entered with Doctor Pretac right behind him. Their safe arrival on the bridge meant that they had succeeded in removing all the Vorta and Jem’Hadar on the Pakar. He didn’t have to ask if their mission was a success.

“What’s our status?” Latham inquired.

“We’re on course for the Minakus system as ordered, sir,” Orlak deferently replied. “But if I may ask. Why are we headed there instead of holding position at Sarpedion?”

“The termination implant acts a locational transponder,” Latham explained. “Killing her alerted the Jem’Hadar that something was amiss. And we’re not in much of a position to fight off an attack. We’re also not sure if all the squadrons of Galor-class destroyers are just as willing to defect. Some of us need to regroup before the next major engagement.”
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Old October 9 2012, 07:28 PM   #28
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twenty-One

Day 37

Aurellan Markalis hurriedly marched across the living area of her quarters, placing empty dishes in the replicator tray. She still felt groggy even after having cut down considerably on doses of triataline. She had limited the doses in the last nine days to her normally prescribed plus a gradually reduced amount meant to break the recent addiction. She felt a brief urge to replicate more of the drug even after having taken her daily dose after she pushed a control to dissolve the empty dishes. Of course, she had said just this once on multiple occasions. And how many more “just this onces” would result from this “just this once”.

Leo Houseman materialized behind her, the sound of which made her gasp with fear. She turned around and let out a sigh of relief at seeing a familiar face. As she kept telling him, she wanted to keep her personal and professional lives apart. And that meant no public displays of affection while on duty and being very selective about with whom they shared details of their relationship. That arrangement didn’t necessarily mean that her significant other would have to travel to her quarters in secret. Surely, walking up to the door and ringing the doorbell won’t start up the gossip mill. Commander Kozar visits the captain’s residence on an almost daily basis? Right? “Do you still have to do that?” she asked, fruitlessly trying to hide her annoyance at his indiscretion.

“You said it was urgent matter,” Leo innocently explained.

“A personal matter of great importance,” Aurellan corrected, not that truly understood such semantic nuances herself. “Take it from somebody who has had dealings with Section 31, it’s still creepy. But anyway, I wanted to discuss something personal with you while there’s still a lull in combat. Sit down.”

The two of them sat down on the sofa. Aurellan took a deep breath to calm her nervousness about broaching a very delicate subject. “We both agreed that I would let you know when I was…ready to…consummate. Well…I’m ready.”

“All right,” Leo flatly responded. “How do want to proceed?”
Aurellan momentarily giggled. “Missionary position is fine.”

“Are you sure you’re comfortable with this after what happened last time, when I made the first move, as it were?”

Aurellan sighed ruefully, remembering Leo’s premature assumption that she wanted a sexual liaison after just the third date. “The way you sprung it on me was a bit frightening,” she explained. I’ve never…you know…copulated with anyone. After everything that’s happened and still will happen, I don’t want to die a virgin.”

“That doesn’t sound like a very logical reason,” Leo retorted, indicating how logically and rationally they both approached this relationship.

“No. But it is a human reason.”

***

Aurellan arched herself backwards, landing softly on the bed as she and Leo planted soft kisses on each other’s lips. His body was perched on top of hers, as he kissed one side of her neck and clasped her hands with his. She let out pleasured moans, her lips gaping open with satisfied agony as she felt his lips on her shoulders and collarbone. She wrapped one leg around his hip and grasped the back of his neck with both hands, and then skidded her fingers on her right hand down the back of his shoulder blade. She planted soft kisses on his neck. Soon, she felt another wave of euphoria all across her body as she arched her head aside, her facial muscles contorted from an ineffable feeling of blissful ecstasy.

Leo rolled over next to Aurellan while she was on her back staring up at the ceiling, her eyes wide with contented awe. A bed sheet covered her nude body up to her chest. Her arms, shoulders and chest were moist with perspiration. She took slow and deep breaths while her heart was racing. In this moment, all the stresses of her life just melted away. It was a moment she had hoped to savor for as long as it lasted. She now understood why this partnership was also called making love. She felt very strongly bonded to the man lying next to her, mentally and spiritually as well as physically, even if he was only a projection of light, energy, and forcefields. The tactile sensations of his flesh, or what passed for flesh, melded with hers still felt as real as any form of physical contact with a warm-blooded being.

“It was more amazing than I had ever imagined,” Aurellan gasped between breaths. “Unbelievably intense.”

Leo was on his back to her right, beads of sweat trickling across his bare chest. While the sweat and his unclothed state were merely holographic simulations, that was the furthest thing from Aurellan’s mind right now. What made the experience seem artificial was the hologram’s blank expression. She stroked the side of his face with her right hand to get his attention. He grinned lightly and said, “Glad to be of service.”

“Is that all it was to you?” Aurellan asked with a chuckle. “Just a service? Like I was practicing with you?”

“I wouldn’t exactly say that,” the hologram responded with a shrug as he stared straight into her gleaming blue eyes. “It was certainly an intriguing experience; one that gave me a firsthand understanding of why sentient beings seek to copulate for reasons other than procreation. It’s a means of establishing an emotional, as well as physical connection between two lovers.”

Aurellan smiled and rolled over, resting the side of her head on his chest. He stroked the back of her shoulder and her arm with one hand and locks of her blond hair with the other. She moaned pleasurably and stared soulfully into his eyes. “Then you understand why I didn’t want to copulate based simply on when a few supposed experts agree it is appropriate between two lovers?” she asked. “I wanted this experience to be more than just two naked bodies in a lurid carnal embrace. I love you, and I wanted it to be an expression of that love.”

Aurellan expected an awkward silence while the EMH processed what she had said. That’s why she was caught by surprise when he quickly responded. “I love you, too,” he said with no hesitation. “You’ve been willing to look at me as a real person while others see a piece of technology.”

Aurellan rested the palm of her left hand on his right cheek and smiled. She slowly arched her head upward and pursed her lips on his. She rested her chin on his left shoulder and closed her eyes, grinning blissfully in the hope that feeling would never go away.

That moment of contentment was immediately interrupted by a red alert sounding.

###

Unexpected ally

Morrison stood in the center of the bridge, just in front of the two command chairs when Limis stepped out of the ready room. He promptly returned to the tactical station as the captain stared at the viewscreen that was displaying Jem’Hadar and Breen ships approaching in groups of three and four. “Looks like they’re not going down quietly,” she mused.

“No, sir,” Morrison agreed. “Reading ten squadrons of Jem’Hadar battleships and Breen heavy cruisers, accompanied by support vessels. Plus about a dozen Cardassian patrol ships.”

Limis sighed, hoping that the lull in combat would last a bit longer so that engineering had more time for repairs. Oh, well, the crew was willing and able to handle combat situation at a moment’s notice. “Alert to ships to...”

The tactical console chirped once again. Limis held her jaw frozen, waiting to hear what else the enemy had its sleeve. “I’m picking up about three-dozen Cardassian warships,” Morrison grimly reported, “mostly Galor-class destroyers with six Dracon-class heavy cruisers.”

Limis dropped her head, certain the Federation Alliance battle group had almost no chance against the oncoming reinforcements. Just remember the admiralty’s orders, she reminded herself. We may be outnumbered, but our job is to try to fight our way to Cardassia.

“We're being hailed,” Morrison added.

“Put it up,” Limis commanded, certain a Cardassian gul would be gloating.

Limis was now eye-to-eye with a Cardassian gul, who appeared on the viewscreen. Like any gul, he was imposing figure, simply by his demeanor alone. He had pale copper skin and dark hair that showed some streaks of gray. Stubble around his chin indicated facial hair having recently been shaved.

“Captain Limis Vircona,” he said with an intimidating, yet modest tone. “I am JaGul Arek Latham, commanding the Ninth Order aboard the Cardassian Union warship Pakar. We are here to join in the efforts to remove the Dominion and Breen interlopers.

“I see,” Limis replied, trying to hold in a sigh of relief. That these Cardassians were on her side didn’t necessarily mean the coming battle would be any easier. “Then you’ve come to right place.”

“Then let’s get it done.”

Limis simply nodded in agreement and pleasant surprise that a Cardassian was echoing Admiral Jellico’s words of encouragement before closing the channel. “You heard the man,” she announced to the rest of the bridge crew. “Let’s get it done. All ships, form up alongside the Cardassian destroyers. All fighter and light cruiser wings, take out the support vessels any way you can. The rest of us will take on the battleships and heavy cruisers.”

***
The Hideki-class patrol that were along the outer formation of enemy vessels swung around and fired at the Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters. The larger Cardassian destroyers then laid down cover fire for the patrol vessels. Some of the ships were destroyed as they headed towards the Dracon and Galor-class ships.

Their sacrifices allowed additional ships to slip through a line of Jem’Hadar and Breen fighters. The Lambda Paz and flanking Saber and Norway-class light cruisers fired phaser salvos at the fighters while speeding towards the larger ships. The Starfleet ships all fired swarms of quantum torpedoes, inflicting minor to moderate damage to the enemy ships’ forward hulls. Other squads of Akira and Nebula-class ships, along with Klingon and Romulan capital and support ships struck the enemy fleet either following behind the Lambda Paz’s group or in other locations, all trying to squeeze themselves and more ships through the Dominion lines.

Gorn and Xindi vessels were also involved in the battle, blowing apart Dominion and Breen ships of all sizes.




It was a sight never seen before since before the founding of the Federation—an alliance of once mutually hostile alien races now fighting alongside one another against a common enemy. All of the ships now fighting on the side of the Starfleet ships represented races that had posed a threat to Earth or the Federation at the some point the previous two hundred years. Now, all those powers--Federation, Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Gorn, and Xindi--were united in vanquishing a dangerous empire from the other side of the galaxy.

Federation and allied ships continued firing endless rounds of phasers and torpedoes, having little trouble knocking down Jem’Hadar and Breen vessels. The larger vessels continued firing plasma torpedoes, taking down as many Federation Alliance support vessels as they could. The ships along the outside of the formation laid down cover fire for the battleships and heavy cruisers in the center. The ships in the center were firing plasma torpedoes at oncoming ships, damaging or destroying a number of Starfleet capital and support ships, Klingon attack cruisers and Romulan warbirds. As they were continuing to lay down disruptor and torpedo fire, the Dominion and Breen ships gathered closer together and slowly swung around. Then they streaked into warp.

###

“They’re withdrawing, sir,” Morrison triumphantly announced.

Some of the younger and lower-ranking officers and crew on the bridge stared at the viewscreen, their faces beaming with pride. It was a sight many of them had never expected to see when the war began. The enemy was withdrawing to its central headquarters. The higher-ranking officers--Limis, Morrison, Carson, and a few others--knew it was only a temporary victory, a strategic withdraw.

Limis still flashed a light smirk. She couldn’t help thinking that the Dominion knew it had lost. Winning the war now was simply a matter of defeating the bulk of their forces around Cardassia Prime. Of course, the task ahead would be far from simple.

“Let’s not start celebrating too soon, people,” she proclaimed while standing up out of her chair. “We still have a lot of work to do. The enemy has been backed into a corner. They know they’ve been beaten. They’re still going to make us fight to the bitter end. It’s still up to us to finish the job.”

A long silence filled the bridge, until Morrison’s communications board chimed. “Incoming messages from rest of the task force,” he said. “Admiral Gündersen on the Manchuria says a number of ships were diverted from Sarpedion shortly after the solar eruptions at Minakus. They were able to slip a few wings of ships through to Cardassia.” He tapped a few controls on his console to sort through the additional messages. “Admirals Bellamy and Coburn say that a number of Cardassian destroyers initially fighting alongside the enemy lent them a hand at Tirolk. Admiral Ross and Chancellor Martok add that they’re lines were on the verge of collapse at Getha when the Cardassians switched sides.”

Limis took a quick look at the ceiling, wondering if those Prophets she didn’t entirely believe in were smiling down on her and the Federation Alliance fleet. Had all of Cardassia suddenly seen the light? In any case, Limis was certain victory was within their grasp, but humbled by the fact that the Dominion would not go down quietly.

“Lieutenant Carson,” the captain said, “set a course for Cardassia Prime. We’re going in.”

“Aye, sir,” Carson briskly responded.

Limis sat back down in the command chair, letting her own inner voice drown out various orders being given from her subordinates. Finally, after two long years, this war would soon be over and thousands of her deceased friends and colleagues in the Maquis would be avenged.
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Old October 12 2012, 08:48 PM   #29
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twenty-Two

Day 37

Lena Katina: My Sister Yugoslavia

Pilate said unto them,
What shall I do then with Jesus which is Christ
They all say unto him,
Let him be crucified.
(Matthew 27:22)


It was the middle of the night in Pogar City when ships descended on the industrial city. Streetlights filled the otherwise darkened area when the attacking ships came, casting shadows on the concrete ground. The ships were firing indiscriminately, destroying everything in its path. Many of the city’s residents would not know that they had died in their sleep, assuming they did not believe in some kind of afterlife.

That mattered very little to the Jem’Hadar piloting those ships and carrying out massive aerial bombardment of cities and villages all over the planet. They were simply concerned with wiping any and all potential sources of rebellion after a massive popular uprising, even if that meant wiping every sentient being on the planet.

“Stop!” cried a nighttime maintenance supervisor while looking up at a trio of ships in the sky. He knew his pleas for mercy were futile, but he was desperate to try to preserve his life and the lives of other residents not yet hit by the bombings. “We are no threat to you! Surely, you must know that.”

A Jem’Hadar battleship descended closer to him and fired a swarm of plasma torpedoes in his direction. He and everyone else within a kilometer perished in that explosion.

***

Something was darkening the sky above Fanehr City. People gathered in the town square, as the sky darkened in the middle of the afternoon. Whatever was blocking the sun was too big to be a solar eclipse. The silhouettes blocking the sun looked more like starships: Jem’Hadar fighters and battleships.

The ships began firing indiscriminately down on the city. The combination of focused disruptor fire and swarms of plasma torpedoes were destroying houses, shops, and factories all over the city. People scrambled to try to get out of the way of descending weapons fire. Some of them were felled by the oncoming charges and ensuing explosions. A woman managed to get her three small children to safety behind a standing of wall of a fallen building. It offered them temporary safety as a fighter swooping in from another direction took out what was left of that building.

***

Miners in the Vorcal Mountains were hauling buckets of a rare mineral, one of the few natural resources indigenous to Cardassia Prime or any other inhabited world in the star system. They were just hard working people doing their part to serve the state. They knew next to nothing about the politics behind Cardassia’s affiliation with the Dominion or their government and military’s decision to break that alliance. That bit of minutiae did not matter to Jem’Hadar aboard the ships descending towards those mountains.

The mountains contained a metal that could scramble nearly type of scanning device. Even the Dominion, for all its resourcefulness, had not yet found a means of locking onto individual lifesigns in the caves of these mountains. For all the Founders knew, insurgents were hiding in those caves. To assure no future uprisings would originate in the Vorcal Mountains, every person there had to be eliminated. Knowing that, however, did not alleviate the miners’ fears of their own demise.

The fighters fired disruptor salvos while the battleships launched wave after wave of plasma torpedoes, destroying the face of each mountain and everyone there.

***
In the village of Nokar, an elderly man was hunched over his wife’s corpse, sobbing inconsolably. The ships in the sky destroyed his home, claiming the lives of his wife, two of his children, and one of his small grandchildren. He knew of the brutality the Cardassian military practiced on the Bajorans and other subject races. He was thankful that he didn’t have to make those kinds of decisions, as he had been a simple farmer all his life. He never thought his family would be made an example of in such a manner.

The Jem’Hadar were raiding the village, killing everyone in their path—men, women, and children alike, the sick and the infirm—with no mercy whatsoever. When they came for him, this simple farmer welcomed his own execution. “Just get it over with,” he pleaded to three approaching soldiers. “I have nothing left.”

The leader of the trio, standing in the center, pulled his gun, showing less than no remorse in his eyes, and fired.


Dominion Heavy Cruiser 9-47

First Mirak’tiral had received news of the intense bombardment of Cardassia Prime when a Vorta communications technician handed him a padd. He stared blankly at the padd while silently pleased that someone was being punished for having betrayed the Dominion.

He would still not be satisfied until his fellow Jem’Hadar were hunted down for continuing to follow the old ways, where a race of warriors were subservient to the puny Vorta. The Founders—their Gods—were the only ones the Jem’Hadar answered to. Even more important than defeating the Federation and its allies, even as his ship was under heavy fire from enemy warships, was rescuing the insurgents’ hostage. He knew that the Founder hadn’t been taken hostage, but that was the only way Mirak’tiral could convince his fire teams to use discretion against the insurgents when they were not aware of the Founder’s presence on this ship.

The command deck rocked, and Mirak’tiral shoved the padd at the Vorta’s abdomen. He then turned his attention towards the Second and several lower-ranking soldiers manning the central console. “Torpedo tube five is offline,” reported Turak’miron.

“Prepare another spread of torpedoes from launchers four, six, and seven,” Mirak’tiral commanded while the compartment rocked back and forth from two more weapon hits.

The main piloting console chirped, catching the First’s attention. Third Ikan’irral had also been responsible for monitoring communications ever since the change of command. “Incoming message from headquarters,” the Third reported. “All ships to fall back to Cardassia Prime.”

Mirak’tiral scoffed. “Relay the message to the rest of the fleet,” he replied. “That order does not apply to us as long as we are without warp drive.” As long the heavy cruiser was fully intact and most of its weapons arsenal functional, it would participate in this and any upcoming battles. As an extra precaution, Mirak’tiral instructed engineering teams to configure a scattering field to let the enemy believe his ship could follow them to the ends of universe. Knowing the resourceful Federation, they would find a way to use this ship’s non-functional warp drive to their advantage.

Mirak’tiral was still far from satisfied with warp drive repeatedly failing for the last nine days. “Why have the repair crews been unable to keep the warp drive functioning for longer than two days?” he demanded of Turak’miron.

“They continue to encounter sabotage to the matter-antimatter flow regulators and computer sub-processors,” the Second plainly stated.

“For nine days?!” Mirak’tiral hissed. “And why have the security teams been unable to find the insurgents and their hostage in that amount of time either?”

“It’s a big ship, First,” Turak’miron offered.

“Do not assume I am not aware of the size of this ship, Second. The Vorta engineers are either incompetent or are derailing the repair efforts. Since we are making no progress in getting this ship fully functional, have all our forces focus on apprehending the saboteurs and rescuing their hostage alive.”

Even though guilt and remorse had been bred out of almost all Jem’Hadar, Mirak’tiral still sensed that he could not maintain such a façade indefinitely from the extra emphasis placed on the word hostage. “Do you really believe they are capable of harming a Founder?” Turak’miron inquired as if also uncertain his superior believed such a falsehood.

“If desperate enough.”

***

Fire teams throughout the ship were conducting hit-and-run strikes throughout the ship, hoping to eventually wrestle control away from the mutineers.

One Jem’Hadar popped out of a ceiling vent and jumped two opposing soldiers. He managed to grab one rogue soldier’s gun and shoot him in one motion. The second was about to blast his head off with his rifle when two Jem’Hadar unshrouded and jammed the blades attached to their rifles into the rogue’s neck.

***
In main engineering, a young Vorta male was busy rewiring an access panel near the floor. He looked around to make sure no one would notice what he was about to attempt. A passing Jem’Hadar, sensing he was dawdling, poked the Vorta with the butt of his rifle, barking, “Back to work!”

The Vorta pretended to oblige by randomly sorting through different sets of wires. He jammed two of those wires into the access panel, causing a wall-mounted computer panel to short out and send two Jem’Hadar to the deck. Just as other guards reacted, the engineer grabbed the pistol of one of the fallen Jem’Hadar and began haphazardly firing while taking refuge behind a nearby console.

He managed to take one additional guard while four previously invisible Jem’Hadar suddenly appeared. They started shooting at rogue Jem’Hadar, as did other soldiers perched on second and third level catwalks. After several minutes of back-and-forth shooting, the rogue Jem’Hadar were defeated while most of the fifteen counter-insurgents who stormed the compartment were still standing.

***

One of the counter-insurgents delivered a status report on a padd to Trok’dalon. He quickly studied the padd while accompanying the Founder and his two personal guards through one of the secondary corridors.

Unlike the main corridors, used for regular transit throughout the ship, this hallway was carved out like a circular tunnel. It was rather dank and musty, like the industrial areas of almost any starship in the galaxy. They allowed access to some of the ship’s main circuits. On the downside, these secondary corridors allowed intruders and saboteurs to move stealthily about the ship.

“We have secured main engineering,” Trok’dalon informed the Founder.

The Founder gave a simple nod. “You have done well, Trok’dalon,” he replied. “Fight well in the battle to retake this ship, I will see that you advance four steps in rank. The Alpha Quadrant Jem’Hadar may have been of great value, but not all of them understand the importance of respecting the chain of command. I am pleased that you are one such Alpha. You will play an important role in defeating the Federation and the other major Alpha Quadrant powers.”

“I am curious about one thing,” Trok’dalon said with a hint of nervousness that his inquiry would come off as presumptuous or disrespectful.

“I encourage your curiosity, Seventh,” the Founder assured him.

“Why not sabotage weapons and shields? That would give the mutineers incentive to withdraw from battle, so we can take back this ship more easily.”

“We need an intact ship to take back,” the Founder simply explained. “And the mutineers are not the only ones who need to be shown the price of their disloyalty.”

Trok’dalon immediately knew the Founder was referring to the popular uprising taking place on Cardassia at this very moment. “You are wise, Founder.”

The Changeling ignored the compliment and continued down the hallway with his guards in tow and Trok’dalon bringing up the rear. They did not get very far, as the Founder stumbled. Trok’dalon took quick paces towards him and injected a hypospray on the Changeling’s arm.

“The pain medication is no longer having any effect,” the Founder said while feeling throbbing pains in his head.
“Then you should rest,” Trok’dalon replied, gently clasping the hand of one of his gods. “I swear by all the Founders, I will not let you die.”

The Founder had a look in his eyes that Trok’dalon thought he would never see in a god. He appeared defeated, dejected, as if he were resigned to his coming demise. “That may not be enough,” he somberly stated.



CUW Pakar

The Pakar and surrounding Galor-class warships limped through space at impulse. A few small towing ships of both Cardassian and Starfleet design were ahead of the larger warships were tugging broken hulls out of the way to prevent the capital ships from colliding with wayward debris. The ships that were still largely intact, but had lost warp drive, would later be taken to the nearest repair base while what was left of destroyed ships would later be taken to a salvage depot.

Gul Latham stared at his desktop monitor, appearing almost catatonic as he read reports of what was transpiring on Cardassia Prime at that moment. The Dominion was simultaneously targeting many cities on the planet at once. It had gone beyond making an example of a few million civilians. Their campaign was now a campaign of genocide. His thoughts went back to his earlier failure to act. If he had defected sooner, then maybe the Cardassian Liberation Front would not have been defeated and a more organized military rebellion would still be alive and well, not leaving any future uprisings in the hands of ordinary civilians. Now those ordinary civilians were paying the price in deaths on a scale of millions. But then again, what difference could one military leader have made?

He was awakened from his trance when his office doors slid open. Latham saw Orlak enter with a padd in hand. “Just leave it on the desk,” he instructed his second-in-command.
Latham’s lack of interest in what was on the padd was Orlak’s cue to leave. The glinn made a beeline for the exit when Latham looked up from the monitor. “Lakarian City was only the first casualty,” he blurted out. “They’re razing the entire planet now. Tens of millions have already died in the first wave of attacks.”

Orlak suddenly stopped in his tracks and turned around to face Latham. “Oh, my…” he gasped.

“Are we too late to stop this?” Latham wondered aloud. “How many more are going to die because I was too cowardly to act sooner?”

Orlak took a few quick paces closer to the desk while looking straight at Latham. “You can’t blame yourself, sir,” he insisted.

“No?” Latham replied, rising from his chair. “I was too concerned with keeping my family safe. I tried to hide behind our values. And even when it became more and more clear that the Dominion had little interest in helping us, I was afraid to take more direct action—trying to convince myself I was lending a hand by sending covert tactical data to the Federation Alliance.”

“If you had turned on our allies sooner, they still would have done this in retaliation.”

Latham rolled his eyes and scoffed. “That’s supposed to make me feel better?”

“I am simply suggesting that acting sooner wouldn’t have changed anything,” Orlak offered. “We can still make a difference in the coming battle.”

Latham took a deep breath and considered Orlak’s words. “I suppose you’re right,” he said. “It’s hardly of any comfort to the families of the twelve million who have already died. All we can do is make sure they don’t wipe out the entire planet. Thank you, Orlak. You’re dismissed.”

Orlak stood at attention and quickly exited the office, leaving Latham alone with his thoughts. His executive officer had helped to reassure him, but he still stared gloomily out the window once Orlak was gone. Latham was far from sure the battle for Cardassia would be won. If not, he could at least die trying to take back his home.
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Old October 16 2012, 09:04 PM   #30
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Re: Star Trek: Lambda Paz-- "To the Bitter End"

Chapter Twenty-Three

Day 38

And the angel answered
And said unto the women,
Fear not ye:
For I know that ye seek Jesus,
Which was crucified.
(Matthew 28:5)


A Final Stand

Captain's log, Stardate 52927.4. We're preparing to enter Dominion-held space for what we hope will be one of the final battles of the war. The Lambda Paz has taken a quite a pounding, but the crew remains resilient. After nearly two years, they are ready and willing to put an end to the most destructive war in galactic history. No matter what it takes, no matter what the cost…

###

Erhlich Tarlazzi entered the Lambda Paz’s main engineering section. He weaved through crowds of engineering officers and technicians hauling heavy equipment with anti-gravity harnesses. He had to pin himself against a wall when two officers were dragging a heavy container by, nearly causing him to drop the padd in his hand. After slipping by those two officers, he spotted Shinar sh’Aqba standing in front of the warp core and watching two lower-ranking officers inspect the dilithium articulation frame.

“Get ready to add new theta matrix compositors,” she instructed them as she saw Tarlazzi standing to her right. “Shouldn’t you be on the Kaneda?” she asked with a quick glance.

“We’re a little low on a few supplies,” he explained. Once again noticing all the traffic in and out of the compartment, he added, “which you guys seem to have plenty of.”

“What do you need?” she asked with her attention focused on the tricorder in her hand. “I’ll see if I can spare it.”

Erhlich keyed a sequence on the padd to access the main display. “Let’s see. A dozen power transfer circuits, thirty-four EPS stabilizers, twenty-three auxiliary command processors…oh, and seventy kilos of quaratum.”

Shinar slipped the padd out of his hands and quickly made a few calculations in her head. “This looks like an awful lot, but we can manage. Ensign Sullivan, will you give Tarlazzi a hand? Most of these are in cargo bays two and five.”

Rebecca quickly passed him, but then slowed down expecting Erhlich to follow. “Can you give us a few minutes, Rebecca?”

Rebecca nodded in agreement while Erhlich touched Shinar’s shoulder to coax his lover towards a secluded corner.

They walked to a load bearing column, both of them leaning against it. After being satisfied that no one was watching, they looked back at each other. Erhlich took a quick look at Shinar’s abdomen, having momentarily forgotten her pregnancy was not yet conspicuous, so at least those rumors would not be catching on for a while. “How are you holding up?” he asked, trying not to look too sympathetic.

Shinar still gave an annoyed sigh. “Honestly, I’m fine,” she defensively insisted.

“I didn’t mean to suggest you weren’t,” Erhlich countered with a disarming grin. “We just haven’t seen much of each other since my reassignment. I just wanted to make sure you’re not buckling under the stress. We’re headed into a major inferno where just about anything can happen.”

Shinar leaned back against the wall, smiled, and stroked his cheek. “Hey, I survived the last Federation-Cardassian war.”

“And I survived the eradication of the Maquis, so I can survive anything. Things don’t always go as planned, though.”

Shinar puckered her lips and sighed ruefully. Erhlich gave a light grin, also thinking back to all the turmoil in her life in the last five months. “I didn’t plan on getting pregnant,” she recalled. “I didn’t plan on skipping out on my marital obligations. I still plan to survive the end of this war.”

“Did I say I don’t plan on surviving?” Erhlich retorted, while clasping both her shoulders. “I absolutely plan on surviving. I just wish we could have five minutes to ourselves.”

“Once the war’s over,” Shinar assured him, her cheeks blushing, “I’ll give you five weeks on Casperia Prime.”

“That’s one more thing to look forward to.”

“That gives you one more reason to survive. Good luck.”

“Same to you,” Erhlich agreed, leaning over to kiss her. But they both quickly came to their senses, and backed away from each other upon realizing that they were still in public view of others.

***

Gregor Kopolev was briefing some of his staff in the Thunderchild's engineering section when Chaz Logan entered.

He took a quick glance at Logan and turned his attention back to his subordinates. Logan had been circulating from one ship to the other, conducting full inspections of starships to see if they were battle ready. Gregor was glad that the commander wasn’t looking over his shoulder all the time. He also felt sorry for the chief engineer of the ship Logan was inspecting, especially Shinar sh’Aqba on the Lambda Paz. Rumors had sparked that she was pregnant. While he didn’t get too caught up in all the gossip, he did know that too much stress was not good for the pregnancy.

“Looks like most of the phaser arrays are up to specs,” he told his crew while consulting a padd. “I’d still be more comfortable replacing the emitter crystals in secondary ventral arrays one and three. Dyson, coordinate with tactical to make sure all the quantum torpedoes are in working order. Connor, concentrate on reinforcing the protective field around the warp core. We have a lot to do in very little time, but don’t feel like you have to rush yourselves. Dismissed.”

The group dispersed throughout the room, while Logan slowly sauntered up to Kopolev. “You really know how to encourage your staff,” he remarked.

Wow, a complement, Gregor wanted to say. “Is the replicator in your quarters getting your breakfast order wrong again?” he asked while heading for the central console.

“No, I just finished my inspection tour,” Chaz explained with a smirk. “I just wanted to say, whatever you or Commander Ellison or the Lambda Paz engineering department may think of me, it’s only because I care about how my ships perform.

“‘Your ships’?” Kopolev skeptically repeated.

“I oversaw the construction of most of these classes of starship. I hadn’t planned on overseeing the construction of warships. I still tend to be overprotective, but not because I sometimes come off indifferent about the outcome of the war, nor because I doubt your abilities or anyone else’s. I have great respect for you and many others who serve as chief engineers of the ships I built. I’m sure you mourn the loss of the Constantinople in your own way, just as much as you would mourn the loss of a friend or loved one.”

Kopolev grinned in agreement of that last statement. He had formed an emotional bond with the USS Constantinople during his two years as that ship’s chief engineer. “You are right about that, sir,” he affirmed. “The Constantinople was a good ship. There will never another one like her. Your…‘children’ performed very well even if all of them didn’t survive. It is truly a tribute your work. You should be proud.”

“As any father would be. Here’s hoping you survive the final battle.” Logan then put out a hand towards Kopolev.

“And you as well.” They shook hands quickly. Other than that, they just stared blankly at each other. Their hands separated, and Logan stepped out of the engineering section with a light nod.

***

Sh’Aqba entered sickbay with two crewmen carrying toolkits. Markalis was loading new vials on a medicine cart when the engineers entered, but she immediately assumed that Shinar was there for her weekly prenatal exam. After all, Shinar had been to sickbay recently as a patient. Whenever equipment in sickbay needed repair or maintenance, sh’Aqba would send one of her specialists.

“I’m sorry I had to cancel this week’s prenatal exam,” she nervously explained.

“That’s not what I’m here for,” sh’Aqba replied while motioning the two crewmen to the two main biobeds. “You sent in a repair request for the imagers a few days ago. And we’re working on adding extra processors to the holographic emitters. We don’t want him to be shorting out while he’s treating wounded.”

Aurellan briefly glanced over at Doctor Houseman treating a patient for a minor wound. “No, we certainly don’t,” she agreed, looking back at Shinar. Aurellan flashed an uncharacteristic smile and her cheeks blushed. Her face was glowing in a way none of her shipmates had ever seen.

“How are things going with him?” Shinar wondered aloud.

Aurellan rolled her eyes and looks away. As far as she was concerned, Shinar was only interested in spreading some juicy bit of gossip around. Unbeknownst to her, the vibe she was giving off indicated that Aurellan and Leo had made love for the very first time the night before.

“Aurellan Markalis, you lucky girl,” Shinar teased.

Aurellan looked around, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “Keep your voice down,” she said with an angry whisper, once she was satisfied that no one was actively eavesdropping.

“I’m sorry,” Shinar quietly replied. “I know you want to keep that to yourself, but I’ve been here often enough to notice. I have to ask, are you sure he’s not just doing what you want, imitating your behavior, following a set of behavioral algorithms?”

Aurellan gave a dismissive scoff. “I would know by now. That time I was injured, I had this bizarre hallucination as a side effect of pain meds interacting with the sedatives I had been taking extra doses of. He could have sent a nurse to my quarters to monitor me more closely. He kept an eye on me himself, though. He helped me through my addiction, and even neglected his duties for me in a way most doctors aren’t expected to. I don’t think there’s a behavioral algorithm for that.”

Shinar nodded lightly, but Aurellan got a niggling sense that the Andorian woman wasn’t entirely convinced. “You’ve done so much for me,” Shinar began. “I owe you this bit of advice. Don’t become too emotionally invested. I’m guessing he’s even more inexperienced than you are. You may find out later on down the line he’s simply practicing with you just as you are with him.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. I should let you get back to work.”

Shinar then walked away, leaving Aurellan with something to consider. So far, the holographic doctor had demonstrated a certain devotion towards her that transcended those of colleagues. She hadn’t planned on falling in love with him, but she had, as her relationship with Leo was becoming no different than with a real live flesh-and-blood human being who became someone with whom she could relate. On the other hand, he didn’t always express emotions in the most socially conventional manner. Aurellan never thought that meant he didn’t truly reciprocate her feelings, but her discussion with Shinar still left a seed of doubt in her mind.

***

“Leo, I need to talk to you for a minute.”

Aurellan took quick paces towards the biobed where Leo examined a human patient with a nasty plasma burn on his left leg. “Sure,” Leo replied. “I just need to finish treating this patient.”

“Looks superficial,” she shot back. “The nurse can handle it. Right? And we’ll just be in the office, so give a yell if you need his help.”

“Just make sure to apply feremene to the wound,” Leo instructed a female nurse as he was following Aurellan into the office, “and a temporary derma-plastic graft.”

“Tell me something that’s from the heart,” she requested of him, once they were inside the office.

“I beg your pardon,” Leo said with a confused stare.

“How do you really feel about me professionally and personally? And don’t take too long thinking about it. Just say whatever comes to mind.”

“You’re a very competent and brilliant medical practitioner,” he unflinchingly began. “You show great empathy and compassion for your patients even if they don’t recognize it.”

“What about me as a person?”

“I greatly enjoy the time we spend together, both on and off duty. You’ve shown me all the complexities of humanoid behavior. You’ve helped me understand that friendship and love are not just emotional responses.

“Of all the people I associate with, you have become the most important one to me, Aurellan. While I was designed as nothing more than a supplement to this ship’s medical personnel, I have an additional purpose in life, and that’s to make you happy.”

Aurellan was almost moved to tears by his words. If he had recited some classic poem, then Shinar’s suspicions might have been confirmed. But Leo said those poetic words all on his own without any advanced preparation. “That was beautiful. Thank you.” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek as a gesture of her appreciation. “I should let you get back to your patient.”

She looked through the window as he left the office to return to his patient. She suddenly realized that people could see the rather personal conversation she was having with one of her colleagues. She prided herself on making mostly rational choices her whole life. She understood at this moment, though, how being in love could drive a person to act irrationally.

What the hell does sh’Aqba know? she asked herself. Don’t we all mimic the behavior of others—of people who came before us? After that little heart-to-heart with Leo, any doubts she had that he genuinely reciprocated her feelings were quickly assuaged.

###

The Fray: How to Save a Life

With the Battle of Cardassia less than a day away, Limis, Kozar, and Latham assembled in the briefing room of the Lambda Paz. They had hoped to exchange as much useful data as they could, even if it was of little consequence to all parties fighting alongside the Federation fleets. Latham provided as much information that was of use regarding the unmanned orbital weapon platforms first seen at Chin’toka. They provided extra defenses to an otherwise poorly defended star system until a few glaring weaknesses were discovered.

“Needless to say,” he said as he turned off the schematic on the monitor, “we have made a few improvements to our automated weapon platforms ever since the prototypes at Chin’toka were outwitted. It was a rather embarrassing defeat considering we Cardassians often boast the most adaptive artificial intelligence devices in the quadrant.”

Limis wanted to roll her eyes while once again hearing a Cardassian boast of one of his race’s technological advantages. It had become an instinctive reaction over the years, yet she knew an eye roll would not be appropriate in this context.

“You may be able to take out the central control system,” Latham went on, “but each has its own independent operating system. You’ll have about a thirty-second window to knock out those platforms before the new programming kicks in.”

“It’s a very limited window,” Limis mused, “so we’ll have to make every shot count.”

“Of course, being able to locate that central control system might not be as easy,” Kozar chimed in, looking up from a padd he was using to make a few calculations. “Meanwhile, computer technicians on the Kaneda are working on ways to weaken the forcefields in small increments.”

“Keep at it,” Limis replied. “I’m sure those guys or the crews of the recon wings will find a clever solution.”

“You’re crew is most efficient, Captain,” Latham remarked. “I am certain they will perform superbly in the battle to liberate my homeland.”

“Yours as well, Gul Latham,” Limis said with an agreeing nod. She stood up to look straight at Latham while resting her hands on the edge of the table. She never thought she would see something like this. On an intellectual level, she knew that not all Cardassians supported their government’s imperialistic policies. Those in uniform were still just targets to be destroyed while she was fighting for her homeland, whether it was Bajor or a Federation colony in the Demilitarized Zone. At this moment, that seemed like a lifetime ago, now that Limis Vircona was fighting alongside a Cardassian for the future of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. “When this is over,” she added, “we owe you a drink.”

Kanar, Captain,” Latham replied. “As you might say, good luck. While I may not believe in luck, we could all use it in the coming battle.”

“Best of luck to you as well.”

***

Sarah Nave and Truxia were among security and Marine officers gathered in the Thunderchild’s main shuttle bay.

In addition to carrying among the most advanced weapons arsenals in Starfleet, Akira-class heavy cruisers were devoted to launching squads of single-pilot scout vessels and small fighter shuttles. These smaller vessels served as both reconnaissance ships and troop convoys. Security and Marine soldiers were boarding the two scout vessels housed in the shuttlebay while Truxia and Nave conferred over their respective flight paths. While they were both going over their plans to get deep into the atmosphere of Cardassia Prime before beaming down the troops, Ellison entered the bay to see them off.

“We’re just about ready to go, sir,” the Denobulan woman informed her captain.

“I only wish I had the two of you on the bridge,” Ellison lamented, as he was certain this would be the last time he saw two of his best officers alive. “I also understand the need for having our most experienced pilots on these ships when they land the first ground forces. And you two are among the best.”

Nave grinned, indicating her upcoming response was self-deprecating humor rather than self-doubt. “You’d really take a twenty-year old first year ensign over most other officers, sir?” she inquired.

Ellison smirked momentarily before his expression became more serious. “When you put it that way, it is ironic that I believe in you probably more than the older pilots we’re sending out there. Knowing you knocked the tops off the percentiles in your Academy flight training, though, it’s not that unrealistic. You’ve persevered better than I thought you would. You’ve become an exceptional officer who has done great honor to that uniform.”

“Thank you, sir. I am also honored to serve under you.”

Ellison smiled and walked away. Truxia, having listened in on the conversation, saw off the last soldier boarding one of the scout vessels. “Your fighter’s ready for departure. And just in case one or both of us doesn’t survive, I want you to know I have greatly admired your emotional fortitude. Any CO would be grateful for someone as composed as you are at such a young age. If we both survive, I’ll be your shoulder to cry on.”

Nave sighed, but still showed no visible signs of any of the emotional turmoil building up inside her after she had already seen so much death. There was still a job to do. She couldn’t worry about whether or not another friend would die before this upcoming battle was resolved. “Thank you, Truxia,” she said with a heavy heart. “I’ve never said this before, but you’ve been a great mentor and a friend.”

The two women shook hands and headed in opposite directions towards the ships they were piloting. Just a second later, though, they stopped and hugged. It was a quick hug, both of them not wanting to stir up too much emotion before they headed for the ships they were piloting.

***

Morrison and Neeley, along with twelve security officers and Marine soldiers were gathered in the Lambda Paz’s main armory. All of them wore thick vests that were designed to absorb most lethal weapon discharges.

Tirren Ra Hoth, a three-armed and three-legged Edosian, was standing in from of the armory’s command post to the right of Morrison. He had served as Lambda Paz’ deputy chief of security over the last two years. Personnel shortages had forced him to double as head of the ship’s Marine unit after Neeley had been transferred to the late Constantinople a few months earlier. Neeley was on Morrison’s left as they studied schematics of the base camps their units were about to storm.

“We’ll be landing troops at these three base camps as part of a preliminary foray,” Morrison announced to the rest of the group.

“Each of them will be protected by at least four garrisons of Jem’Hadar,” Neeley added. “Each squad will dispatch a fire team to confront one of those garrisons in the hope that will divert the other three. The rest of the squad will try to break through their lines. Once you get through, things will get a lot messier. They’ll be using kartokins, as well as plasma rifles. So keep your equipment tightly secured.”

“Keep your fire teams in close contact at all times,” said Ra Hoth. “They’re going to try to divide our forces. Do not, under any circumstances, let that happen.”

“Any questions?” Morrison asked.

A long silence followed.

“Then let’s end this war,” Morrison proclaimed, which elicited a raucous cheer from the crowd.

The fourteen troops marched single-file down the corridor to the airlock where their fighter was moored when a comm chime sounded. “Lieutenant Neeley,” said a female bridge officer, “you have a message from Starbase 401.”

Neeley acknowledged with a tap of her combadge. She looked at Morrison, who gave an approving nod. “Go ahead,” he added. “The pilot will need a few minutes to go over pre-launch.”

They had arrived at the airlock, where Morrison made sure all the troops boarded. He couldn’t help glancing in Neeley’s direction as she read a written message to her on a computer panel. He began to worry for her emotional well being when she dropped her head. He knew Lisa was a professional, but sooner or later having to deal with so much death would wear on her.

“Was it Pherrelius?” Mandel asked as Lisa walked by him.

She just ignored him. As when he offered his sympathies to her when Loukas was on his deathbed, he wanted to persist in providing emotional support. Again, she was not swayed by his attempts to lend a sympathetic ear. He assumed the worst, considering her expression had gone from wide-eyed optimism to a sense of personal defeat.

Mandel just watched Lisa step through the airlock and then followed right behind her, reminding himself that she was fully capable of focusing on the task ahead.
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